Archive for the ‘Edinburgh Film festival’ Category

Calibre (2018) Netflix

Dir/Wri: Matt Palmer | Cast: Jack Lowden, Martin McCann, Tony Curran, Ian Pirie, Cal MacAninch | UK Thriller 101′

A wee weekend in the Scotlish highlands has no happy outcome for anyone concerned in this gritty thriller that sees the usual low budget British gangland flick evocatively transposed to north of the border.

Calibre is the feature debut of seasoned shorts director Matt Palmer whose canny script certainly makes for gripping if uncomfortable viewing. The only downside is the lack of a spunky female character to counterbalance the fearsome  red-bloodied males in a cast led by Jack Lowden (Dunkirk/Small Axe).

After a romantic opening scene the engines start firing when suburban, soon to be father Vaughn (Lowden) bids farewell to his fiancé Anna (Morgan) and heads off with close friend Marcus (McCann) into the wild and rather hostile territory of West Lothian for a spot of deer shooting.

Palmer and his Hungarian DoP Mark Gyori establish the dour milieu of the tartan-shrewn hunting lodge where the two settle down to a night of heavy drinking, you can almost hear the bagpipes grinding ominously in the gloaming. Dawn sees them venturing into bristling gorse-lands nursing hangovers that clearly skew their shooting skills. What happens next is pivotal to the remaining hour or so of the film where the two wish they had spent the weekend quietly at home in Edinburgh rather than drenched in dread and despair up north. A gross error of judgement leaves Vaughn and Marcus toughing it out at the lodge, rather than reporting events to the local police, or even heading home – there’s also a suggestion that some kind of business deal is attached to the trip to explain their staying, but this is a minor flaw in an otherwise gripping little thriller. One mistake leads to another as soon all hell breaks loose with the locals who are not able to forgive or forget. There’s a Straw Dogs feel to the way the film plays out, and it’s brutal and not for wimps.

Most of the violence occurs off-camera with Chris Wyatt’s clever editing skills conveying an unbearable tension that gnaws away as the vehement locals prepare to take matters into their own hands. MT

NOW ON NETFLIX | Calibre won the Michael Powell Award for best new British feature at Edinburgh 2018.

Aniara (2018) ****

Dir.: Pella Kagerman, Hugo Lilja; Cast: Emilie Jonsson, Blanca Cruzeiro, Anneli Martini, Arvin Kananian; Sweden/Denmark 2019, 106 min.

This Swedish dread-fuelled sci-fi debut feels like Solaris directed by Ingmar Bergman.

Adapted from an epic poem by Swedish Nobel prize laureate Harry Martinson Aniara is both unsettling and beautiful to look at, embued with the melancholy of its original author who committed suicide after learning that he would have to share his Nobel Prize with his countryman Eyvind Johnson (both were members of the prize giving Swedish academy). Martinson had rather a dim view of humanity: a staunch progressive, his first wife left him “because he lacked political engagement” – hardly a reason for divorce, but something that was clearly vital for the success of their marriage.

Aniara is a slow burner in many ways: having watched it, one is satisfied, but not overwhelmed. But the film stays with you, the audacity and originality dawning slowly as you cast your mind back. A space transporter ferries wealthy Earthlings from our own now uninhabitable planet to a docking station somewhere in the firmament whence they will be transported to Mars. Alas, the three week  journey is interrupted in the first few days when the Aniara, a sort of luxury mall, has to dump all its fuel to avoid a collision. The only chance of getting back on course is to locate a celestial body. Captain Chefone (Kananian) promises this for the near future but a wise, old astronomer (Martini) tells her roommate Mimaroben (Jonsson) that this will never happen. Mimaroben (or MR) is in charge of MIMA, a sentient computer system which allows humans to see viral images of the old Earth, by way of using the memories Earth-dwellers. After the astronomer is shot for “spreading panic”, MIMA shuts itself down, and MR and her lover Isagel (Cruzeiro), a pilot, are put in prison. They are released when the Ariana encounters a foreign body and Chefone hopes that the object will contain fuel. When this turns out to be wishful thinking, the space voyagers are filled with doom and gloom. Cults and anarchy reign, and Isagel becomes pregnant during a ritual. It falls to the two women to raise the child, and for a time, this nuclear family promises a sort of future.

Divided into chapters, Ariana is a slow descent into night. Visually this is a stunning endeavour and credit is due to DoP Sophie Winquist and PDs Linnea Pettersson and Maja-Stina Asberg. Instead of spending vast sums on interiors, the team make use of   local malls, office blocks and amusement parks, Winquist always finding new angles to conjure up the passengers’ sheer terror at seeing their surroundings vanishing bit by bit. The ensemble acting is really convincing, with Martini’s cynical astronomer (“I was never impressed much by humans”) outstanding. There are no monsters populating Ariana – just talented humans beings. AS       

ANIARA is released in Cinemas and on Digital HD from 30th August

Gwen (2018) ***

Dir.: William McGregor; Cast: Maxine Peake, Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Jody Innes, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith; UK 2018, 88 min.

This Gothic coming of age folk tale is the big screen debut of TV director William McGregor, who is well known for his character based dramas such as Poldark. Gwen is a long version of his 2009 short film, which was shot in Slovenia. Falling between ultra-realism and English Gothic horror in the style of Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England, Gwen never quite lives up to its early promise, in spite of an evocative setting and haunting images by DoP Adam Etherington.

Set in 19th century Snowdonia during the industrial revolution, the story centres on 17-year old Gwen, her younger sister Mari (Innes) and mother Elen (Peake), an authoritative woman suffering from a epilepsy. Elen and Gwen look after the family’s small-holding, in the absence of the patriarch, who is fighting a far-away war. But doom and gloom overwhelms them from the start, with a series of tragic events: their sheep are slaughtered and have to be destroyed; the pack horse bolts at the stormy weather and has to be put down, and the local quarry owner puts in a bid to buy their farm, supported by the village elders. But Elen stubbornly resists, wanting to preserve the land for her husband’s home-coming (although she has been informed of his death).

Gwen’s life becomes increasingly difficult with her only male support being Dr Wren (Holdbrook-Smith). And just before gothic horror takes over completely in a bloody finale, we learn that even the good doctor is on the side of the evil-doers rather than our tragic heroine.

But McGregor then shifts from realism to full blown gothic horror with the introduction of jump scares and other well-worn horror tropes. Bloodletting and ghostly images of the missing father feel really superfluous – as are symbolic gestures, such as the rotten potato in the ground. Eleanor Worthington-Cox saves the day with a terrific performance as Gwen. She starred in the title role of the stage musical Matilda and is now in her late teens. Together with Maxine Peake she carries this hybrid feature to a devastating conclusion, bailing out the director and his simplistic over-the-top approach. AS

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASES FROM 20 JULY 2019

 

Venezia (2019) Edinburgh Film Festival 2019

Dir: Rodrigo Guerrero | Cast: Paula Lussi, Margherita  Mannino | Drama Argentina, France, Italy 75’

At the start of Rodrigo Guerrero’s atmospheric drama VENEZIA, Sofia (Paula Lussi) lies on a bed in a hotel room, sobbing gently and utterly alone. Her mobile buzzes, but she doesn’t answer. Later, as we see her pace through the winding, narrows streets of the eponymous city, the cause of her tears and solitude is slowly revealed, her loneliness signalling an absence in her life – and an absence felt in the film itself, for the story begins in media res, with a slow-burning sense of uneasy mystery.

As such, the opening raises a string of active questions whichwould not feel out of place in a thriller, but Guerrero instead uses these intrigues as hooks by which to propel an engrossing character study – a portrait of a lost woman attempting to find solace and understanding for what life has thrown her way.

Thankfully, and in contrast to so many other recent films, the opaqueness gradually lightens, allowing us a rich understanding of the problems faced by Sofia, as wonderfully conveyed through Lussi’s hypnotic performance. Indeed, the film’s only slight misstep is the inclusion of a scene which takes the focus momentarily away from Sofia, to give us an unnecessary insight into the life of Francesca (Margherita Mannino), one of several characters who Sofia encounters as she drifts through the city – for this is Sofia’s story, and it’s in following the minutiae of her journey (physical and emotional) that the film excels.

Filmed in striking 1.33:1 images, Venezia‘s evocative, observational style follows in the arthouse tradition which is too often described as ‘detached’ – it would be better, and more accurate, to say that Guerrero’s engrossing, tender film is unsentimental and devoid of emotional manipulation, and that it’s all the more impactful as a result. Understated and light on dialogue, Venezia reminds us that, so often, less is more – and, with a slender runtime of just 75 minutes, it also offers a further rejoinder to the bloated nature of much contemporary cinema. A real, subtle gem.

Elsewhere in the programme, Sasha Collington’s LOVE TYPE D offered a very different, and much more light-hearted, portrait of a lonely woman: Frankie (Maeve Dermody), who has just been dumped for the 11th time in a row. Discovering a scientific theory that suggests her run of bad luck may be the result of genetics and, more specifically, a ‘loser in love‘ gene, Frankie sets about trying to cure herself. Slightly more high-concept than your average rom-com, Love Type D offers plenty of laughs and entertainment, frivolous though it may all be. ALEX BARRETT

EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL 19-30 JUNE 2019

Robert the Bruce (2019) ** Edinburgh Film Festival 2019

Dir: Richard Gray | Cast: Angus MacFadyen, Gabriel Bateman, Macaulay Callard, Jared Harris, Zach McGowan | US Drama

Headlining Edinburgh Film Festival’s latest edition this very Scottish saga is unconvincing and lacklustre, and far too ambitious for its limited resources. Directed by the Australian Richard Gray and made in the US it comes hot on the heels of another disappointing exploration of the Hibernian legend of machismo – Outlaw King from last October’s London Film Festival.

Setting itself up as a sequel to the superlative original interpretation of the story, Braveheart starring Mel Gibson, Robert the Bruce is much anticipated, particularly by the Scots. And with Angus MacFadyen in the leading role as the swashbuckling Scottish king – what could go wrong?. The answer is a great deal.  Co-scripter Eric Belgau sets the epic during the interregnum between the death of hero William Wallace and the First War of Scottish Independence. Heavy-handed and decidedly dour this is a film with an overinflated sense of its own importance despite its lack of authenticity and dodgy Scottish accents (due to a largely US cast). A restricted budget and pallid performances across the board further ensure that Robert the Bruce will fall on the sword of its predecessor.

In 1306 the war-weary Robert has been violently attacked by his former henchmen keen to get their hands on the bounty of 50 gold sovereigns offered as a reward for his death by the English King, Edward I. A family of crofters take the injured nobleman turned outlaw under their wing and he sallies forth again keen to avoid further ado with the bounty seekers. But brutal scuffles continue to break out as he goes on his lonely way plagued by doubt and desperate to survive the inclement winter of discontent. Rather than make the best of its indie low budget credentials with a pared down, gritty character study about a beaten down hero, the film tries to channel Braveheart‘s epic quality with a smattering of wide screen set pieces, while the Robert ruminates introspectively with squirrelly speeches about honour and duty.  And that lack of cohesion is ultimately the film’s downfall. MT

EIFF 2019 | 19 -30 JUNE 2019 

Alice (2019) ** Edinburgh Film Festival 2019

Dir.: Josephine Mackerras; Cast: Emelie Piponnier, Cloe Boreham, Martin Swabey, Jules Ferrand, UK/Australia/France 2019, 103 min.

ALICE sees two sex workers frolicking around in Paris and looking very much like Celine and Julie go Boating from Jacques Rivette’s New Wave classic. One says to the other “We are in control, you will see how easy it is”.

So what did Josephine Mackerras have in mind with her story of modern day Parisian sex workers? Alice (Piponnier) and Francois (Swabey) seem to be happy as a couple: we first meet them at a party where Francois quotes large chunks of Racine and kisses his wife passionately. But soon we learn that he has been seeing high class prostitutes and frittered away the money in their joint bank account, and, worst of all, has not paid the mortgage for twelve months: Alice learns that their flat will be re-possessed if she cannot pay the the arrears and worries about her little son’s Jules (Ferrand) future. Then, finding the contact number of an escort agency on Francois’ mobile, she attends an interview session, and gets the job. She meets Lisa, who shows her the ropes, and they become best friends. Clients are as worst odd, but usually very understanding. Then Francois comes up with a sob story about how his father took him to a prostitute age thirteen. He begs for forgiveness, so Alice uses him only as a babysitter. Then the worm turns, and Francois threatens to take Jules away from her mother. Mackerras ends her dubious tale with a kitsch, over-the-top happy end.

DoP Mickhael Delahaie’s idyllic Paris images would look better with a tourist advert – Alice and Lisa wandering around ‘romantic’ Montmartre is one example of the escalating cringe factor. Francois is the only convincing character, the women leads have to deal with simplistic dialogue; and Alice seems pretty clueless as a woman too dumb to check her bank accounts for a whole year. But the main problem with ALICE  is the director’s attempt to romanticise a profession which destroys both body and soul. AS

EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL | 19-30 JUNE 2019

 

 

Vagabond (1985) Bfi Player

Dir Agnès Varda | Cast: Sandrine Bonnaire, Macha Méril, Yolande Moreau | 106′ | France | Drama

Venice Goldenn Lion winner Vagabond is haunting story about loss, loneliness and defiance expressed through its remarkable central character played by one of French cinema’s most intriguing talents, Sandrine Bonnaire, who had made her first appearance in Maurice Pialat’s À nos amours. Here she gives a captivating performance as the freewheeling rebel Mona who spends her days wondering aimlessly through the South of France, her death in the opening scenes of this melancholy human story allowing Varda to explore and us to reflect on society’s preconceptions about women and the disenchfranchised. Despite its 1980s setting, Vagabond feels every as relevant in today’s shifting sociopolitical climate. A simple narrative but one with everlasting appeal and universal resonance.

NOW ON BFI PLAYER

Ruben Brandt, Collector (2018) **** Edinburgh Film Festival 2019

Dir.: Milorad Krstic; Animation with the voices of Ivan Kamaras, Gabriella Hamori, Zalan Makranczi; Hungary 2018, 96 min.

Milorad Krstic (66), director, designer and script-writer of his debut animation feature, won the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at the Berlinale in 1995. Premiering here at Locarno Film Festival Ruben Brandt is mostly hand-drawn with some CG elements and very much resembles in style and narrative of the recent Folimage animation feature A Cat in Paris , even though the tone is much darker.

Psychotherapist Ruben Brandt (Kamaras) suffers from dreams and hallucinations: He is attacked by figures from famous paintings like Velazquez’ “Infanta Margarita” and Botticelli’s “Venus”. Nevertheless, Brandt goes on treating his four patients, through role-plays of stories such as Little Riding Hood. They are all highly skilled burglars; so is Mimi (Hamori), who puts Ruben’s plan into action; he wants to possess thirteen famous paintings, so Mimi heads first to the Paris Louvre, hotly pursued by detective Kowalski (Makranczi), who has been hired by various insurance companies, who put a 100million dollar bounty on Ruben’s head. But Brandt becomes increasingly desperate, his dreams growing ever more violent. We see little Ruben, his neurologist father making him watch cartoons, a favourite is Rusalocka in “The Little Mermaid”. The thieves embark on a world cruise to steal Van Gogh’s “Postman Roulin”, Titan’s “Venus of Urbino” and Picasso’s “Woman with Book”, visiting the Uffizzi, the Hermitage, Tate and MoMA. There are flying cats, and the pictures start to interact with Ruben. In the Pantheon, Ruben is asked to participate in a Western duel, before being whisked off in a plane to Arles in Provence. Matters become even more complicated it emerges that Kowalski is Ruben’s half-brother. Their father Gerhardt was a Stasi spy who defected to the USA and worked for the CIA on neurological research. He has just died, and Kowalski’s mother tells his son, “ I had to leave your father, so you could have your own dreams”. Ruben meanwhile is meeting the painter Renoir, and is trying to unravel his father’s life. After a wild hunt, when the six are hunted down by two oil-tankers and a helicopter, the chase ends in Tokyo, during the attempted theft of the last painting, Warhol’s “Double Elvis”.

On one level Ruben Brandt is a haunt caper, one the other a trip through European film history from ‘Caligari’, Eisenstein, Hitchcock to Wenders. Krstic is clear about his intentions: “To be haunted by ghosts or zombies in nightmares is a cliché, it’s more exciting to be haunted by Velázquez’s ‘Infanta Margarita’ or Botticelli’s ‘Venus.” And paraphrasing Godard he explains his aesthetic concept: “For me drawing is imagination, and animated film is imagination twenty-four times a second.” His attempt at an ‘audio-visual symphony’ might be strange at times, but is always fascinating, and even in its most absurd moments Ruben Brandt is utterly compelling. A unique, magical, trippy experience, a throwback to the Sixties with its echoes of Pink Panther.

EIFF 19 JUNE – 30 JUNE | ANIMATION STRAND | PREMIERED AT LOCARNO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2018

Summer 1993 (2017) Bfi player

Dir/Writer: Carla Simón | Drama | Spain, 2017 | 96′

Tears will well up within the first few minutes of this tender tale about a little orphaned Catalan girl coping with grief and uncertainty after her parents’ death. Cast your mind back to the panic and fear of losing sight of your own mother in the supermarket when you were six. And that coupled with the realisation that she’s never coming back is the feeling Simón inspires in debut that won Best First Feature award at Berlinale 2017.

Shooting at waist level the director manages to convey life from Frida’s perspective, and Laia Artigas gives a determined performance, mature for one so young. She views her new family set-up with a certain feral mistrust tempered with the anger of abandonment brought on by insecurity and steely pragmatism. Frida is not sure how to respond to her changed circumstances as she goes about her daily routine in the limpid naturalistic light of the family’s home in rural Girona. It’s only in quiet moments that she allows herself to dissolve in tears.

Life couldn’t be better with her uncle Esteve (David Verdaguer, 10,000km), aunt Marga (Bruna Cusi), and toddler cousin Anna (Paula Robles), and Simón’s quietly observant treatment takes a ‘less is more’ approach as she tells her story, for the most part without dialogue, allowing us to contemplate and revisit our own childhood through Frida’s innocent eyes.

Marga is clearly on her best behaviour, often chiding Anna as she strains to protect Frida with kid gloves. Clearly, Frida’s bereavement is not going to be as simple as we thought. Simón brings her own experiences to bear in a story that has an certain unsettling feel throughout its well-paced running time making SUMMER 1993 – although not entirely surprising – engaging and quietly memorable. MT

NOW ON BFI PLAYER SCREENING AS PART OF THE FOCUS ON SPAIN STRAND | EIFF 19-29 JUNE 2109

 

Blancanieves (2012) **** Edinburgh Film Festival

Dir: Pablo Berger | Cast: Maribel Verdu, Emilio Gavira, Daniel Gimenez Cacho | Spain Drama 110’

A bittersweet homage to the Golden Age of Spanish silent cinema, Pablo Berger’s intoxicating Gothic fantasy relocates the tale of Snow White to a sweepingly romantic vision of 1920s Seville, where a little girl overcomes cruel adversity to find fame as a bullfighter.

Tinged with melancholy and the macabre, along the lines of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale, Blancanieves is delicately rendered in elegant black and white and set to Alfonso de Vilallonga’s lush score.

Carmen (played by Sofia Oria as a child and Macarena Garcia in later life) is the daughter of a proud and famous bullfighter who is paralysed in the ring.  After her mother’s death in childbirth, her father remarries unwisely to Marbel Verdu’s spiteful and self-centred virago Encarna. She neglects both Carmen and her father who later dies leaving the little girl at her mercy.  In this version six miniature bullfighters take the role of the seven dwarfs who come to Carmen’s rescue after finding her abandoned one day by Encarna. She is re-named ‘Blancanieves’.

As the story progresses, the production is slightly hampered by tonal differences as heightened melodrama struggles with Gothic and surreal fantasy to create slightly off-key episodes of banal humour which detract from the graceful delicacy of Kiko de la Rica’s cinematography.  A passionate and inspired creation, nevertheless, with the fresh appeal of The Artist tweaked with touches of Buñuel: it has certainly won the hearts of the Festival Circuit Juries winning no less than 33 awards in one year for script, score, cinematography, cast and costumes. Snow White has never looked so good!. MT

BLANCANIEVES screening on 22 June 2019 at EIFF | Part of the Once Upon a Time in Spain Strand

 

Edinburgh Film Festival 2019 – New Films

Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) is taking place between 19th and 30th June. This year the Festival will screen around 121 new features, including 18 feature film World Premieres from across the globe.

This year the focus is Spain and there will be a particular emphasis on genre films from women directors from around the world, ranging from gothic romance and Western chills through to science fiction and old-fashioned horror. All this set alongside a tribute to French filmmaker Agnès Varda, a woman who has inspired generations of directors.

There will be guests including one of Britain’s most successful directors, Danny Boyle, award-winning actor and producer Jack Lowden, British documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield and Scottish writer, director and actor Pollyanna McIntosh who also brings her latest film, Darlin’ to this year’s EIFF, and director, actor, writer and producer Icíar Bollaín. 

The festival will screen the world premiere of Adrian Noble’s Mrs Lowry & Son, starring Timothy Spall as the iconic painter L S Lowry, and Vanessa Redgrave. The Black Forest described as a ‘love letter to Europe’ from writer-director Ruth Platt; and coming-of-age supernatural love story Carmilla from director Emily Harris.

The EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVES strand features: Elfar Adalsteins’ End of Sentence where a bickering father and son from America take a road trip in Ireland; The Emperor of Paris starring Vincent Cassel will receive its UK Premiere at the Festival alongside Rudolph Herzog’s amusing How to Fake a War starring Katherine Parkinson and Aniara, an epic science-fiction drama about a passenger spaceship lost in the void, as well as titles including Barbara Vekarić’s Aleksi from Croatia; Susanne Heinrich’s Aren’t You Happy? from Germany and Swiss psychological drama Cronofobia. Audiences can also look forward to the return of France’s favourite Gaul in Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion.

This year’s WORLD PERSPECTIVES strand offers audiences an exciting and challenging array of new works by talented filmmakers from around the world. Highlights include: the World Premieres of Astronaut, starring Richard Dreyfuss as a lonely widower who dreams of a trip to space and Rodrigo Guerrero’s Venezia. Australian cinema features prominently this year with the acclaimed Acute Misfortune, a striking, brilliant and unconventional portrait of one of Australia’s most acclaimed and idiosyncratic painters, Adam Cullen; Other highlights include two South Korean action-adventure masterclasses in the form of Unstoppable and box office smash Extreme Job.

This year’s DOCUMENTARIES programme reflects the ability of documentary film to amaze, inspire, challenge, provoke and fascinate audiences, offering them the unique chance to travel the world and see strange and unusual sights. Strand highlights include:Memory: The Origins of Alien, a fascinating documentary about the making of Alien from the very beginning; This Changes Everything which examines the problems faced by women filmmakers and features interviews with Hollywood greats including Geena Davis, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Taraji P. Henson, Reese Witherspoon and Cate Blanchett; Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk narrated by former caddie Bill Murray and Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, from Nick Broomfield, giving audiences an insight into Leonard Cohen’s love affair with Marianne Ihlen. 

This year’s retrospective strand entitled ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPAIN, will explore Spain’s rich cinematic history through three strands: A Retrospective Celebration of Modern Spanish Cinema; A Retrospective Selection of Cult Spanish Cinema and an in-depth celebration of the work of legendary Spanish writer, actor and filmmaker, Icíar Bollaín. Designed to begin where the retrospective ends, FOCUS ON SPAIN features a selection of brand new Spanish cinema by some of the country’s most promising directors. Highlights include: Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles from Salvador Simó, an accomplished and fitting homage to the great master of surrealist cinema; the directorial debut from Nicolás Pacheco Cages and gripping sci-fi thriller h0us3 from Manolo Munguía, inspired by the mysterious ‘insurance files’ famously employed by Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. 

The Festival will screen a number of films by the late great Agnès Varda across a retrospective strand entitled THE FEATURES OF AGNÈS and Varda by Agnès, her final film which will be introduced by Honorary Patron Mark Cousins.

Audiences can look forward to a whistle-stop tour of the latest ideas and techniques being explored in the world of animated film in the International Animation selection, as part of the Festival’s annual dedicated ANIMATION strand, as well as a screening of an anthology of anime shorts from the Japanese Studio Ponoc – the anticipated successor to Studio Ghibli – in association with Scotland Loves Anime.

If the weather holds there will be a free open-air cinema event, Film Fest in the City with Edinburgh Live, at St Andrew Square Garden, running from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th June 2019.

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL | 19-30 JUNE 2019 

 

Eaten by Lions | Edinburgh Film Festival 2018 ***

Dir.: Jason Wingard; Cast: Antonio Aakeel, Jack Carroll, Sarah Hoare, Natalie Davis, Kevin Eldon, Vicky Pepperdine, Asim Chaudhry, Hayley Tammaddon, Neelam Bakshi, Johnny Vegas, Tom Binns; UK 2018; 99 min.

British director Jason Wingard (In another Life) has assembled a multicultural absurdist comedy featuring two teenage half brothers: one looking for his father, the other simply following big brother where ever he goes. Their madcap journey from Bradford to Blackpool ends in the bosom of a large, wealthy Asian family, where histrionics are the rule.

Omar (Aakeel) and Pete (Carroll), are alone again after the death of their Gran. Having already lost their parents in a freak accident in Africa, where they had met their demise in the jaws of a lion. The idea of living with reactionary and repressive relatives (Eldon/Pepperdine) does not appeal to the brothers, so Omar sets out to find his genetic father, a certain Malik, whose name is on his birth certificate. In Blackpool they meet punky Amy (Hoare), her campy uncle Ray (Vegas) and a fortune teller (Binns) who turn out to be useful providing them with the address of the Choudray family. Ruled by two matriarchs Sara (Tamaddon) and Tazim (Bakshi), it turns out that Malik is not Omar’s father, his progenitor is actually Irfan (Chaudhry), Malik’s younger brother, who is about as mature as Omar himself. Pete falls into the arms of young Parveen (Davis), a teenager who doesn’t speak to her family, but is very verbal with Pete, who also has a slight walking disability. When Parveen and Pete set out in grandfather Choudray’s pristine Rolls Royce, picking up oddballs from the waterfront, the scene is set for a raucous wedding finale.

Told this way, one might expect a run-of-the-mill comedy, but every character feels rather a parody, and the clichés pile up like papadums. Everyone seems to be  OTT so the lack of straight versus crazy, the very essence of any comedy, is therefore missing.  funny numbers, but not much cohesion. DoP Matt North overdoes the colourful palette making everything as saccharine as the candyfloss on the beachfront. Humour is always highly personal affair. Let’s just say that Wingard’s lack of subtlety veers on the embarrassing, and the rather undeveloped characters and storyline make for disappointing viewing. AS

EATEN BY LIONS celebrated its World Premiere on 21June at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018 | On release from 29 March 2019 

The Accountant of Auschwitz (2018) Netflix

Dir.: Matthew Shoychet; Documentary; Canada 2018, 80 min.

Oskar Gröning, known as the accountant of Auschwitz, lived out a peaceful existence in his hometown of Lüneburg in Lower Saxony for 70 years  – unperturbed by guilt or singled out for his actions as an active member of the SS of Auschwitz. He would eventually get his comeuppance in 2015.

In his debut documentary Canadian director/writer Matthew Shoychet chronicles the 2015 trial against Gröning, featuring testimonies from the defendant himself and the surviving victims and the last living judge from the Nuremberg trial and Holocaust deniers.

Born in 1921 into a nationalist family, Oskar Gröning was unremarkable but seized the opportunity of a lifetime when he joined the SS during the Second World War. Employed at Auschwitz, he was responsible for overseeing all the artefacts stolen from Jewish internees as soon as they arrived at the Polish camp. The goods trains would turn up laden with their human cargo and Gröning would be present and correct on the infamous “Rampe”, where Dr. Joseph Mengele, the Angel of Death prepared to make the macabre decision as to who would be gassed immediately, or who could be of some use as a worker for a limited period. Gröning witnessed some gruesome events: when a mother turned up with her suitcase hiding a her baby, the child’s crying gave them both away to the guards and both were immediately executed. “The crying stopped” was all Gröning had to say.

But the survivors’ reactions could not have been more different: Bill Glied (who died in 2018) even considered that a certain form of justice had been done. But Eva Morez, who survived the deadly twin experiments of Joseph Mengele (together with her sister Miriam), expressed extreme gratitude to Gröning, offering him a hug.

Benjamin Ferenc, Judge at the Nuremberg Trials, explains why the outcome of this trial is so important and why there should never be a statute of limitations for genocide. He explains how the German justice systems had absolutely no vested interest in prosecuting SS men and other guards who kept the concentration camps going. Sure, they were little cogs in the death machine, but without them, it would have ground to a halt.

The SS had around 800, 000 men in 1945. And although it was declared a “Criminal Association” only around 200,000 the members were vetted,  a mere of these 6000 prosecuted, with just 124 life sentence given out. The judges had a vested interest in making sure the whole affair was kept low-key, lest they themselves be implicated. In the end Oskar Gröning was found guilty and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment as an accessory to murder in thousands of cases. He lost all his appeals but died before he started his sentence in 2018.

The Accountant makes for sobering viewing: once again it shows how the huge majority of German civilians of the time actively supported the concentration camps by keeping ‘schtum’ and shielding those involved in the atrocities. Even today films like Luke HOlland’s Final Account (2020) show how Germans turned a blind eye to the Holocaust, some actively condoning it. AS

NOW ON NETFLIX.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donkeyote (2018) ***

Dir: Cico Pereira | Spain | Doc | 87′

If you love animal documentaries and nature stories, DONKEYOTE is for you. There’s something endearingly charming about this soothing tale of an elderly shepherd from Andalucia who decides to embark on an pilgrimage with his donkey Gorrion, and a couple of dogs. Filmed in the wild landscapes of Southern Spain by Cico Pereira and his cameraman Julian Schwanitz, it’s a simple story, but an enjoyable one.

Manolo has a traditional life in Southern Spain. He is both ambitious and naive. Against the advice of his doctor, he decides to plan one final journey. From his home in the hillsides near Cadiz, he decides to walk the 2200 mile Trail of Tears in America’s West. Foolhardy he may be, but his positive mental attitude is inspiring. To overcome the obstacle of shipping a donkey with a fear of water, and himself with chronic arthritis and a history of heart problems, is no mean feat.

DONKEYOTE  follows their adventure, and shows that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination, and particularly in this case. Touching, amusing and quietly wonderful, Manolo may be a modern day Don Quixote, but you have to admire his style. MT

SCREENING AT BERTHA DOCHOUSE LONDON FROM 23 OCTOBER 2018

DONKEYHOTE 

1945 (2017) ***

Dir: Ferenc Török | Cast: Péter Rudolf, Bence Tasnádi, Tamás Szabó Kimmel, Dóra Sztarenki, Ági Szirtes, József Szarvas | Drama | Hungary 2017 | 91 min

Best known for his 2001 comedy drama Moscow Square, Ferenc Török has continued to hone his skills in TV work in his native Hungary. His latest film is an unsettling war-themed drama that takes place on the Hungarian puszta during the blistering heat of August 1945 where the local chemist is getting ready for his son’s wedding. In the sleepy afternoon torpor, two strange men arrive on the scene – and no one is glad to see them. As news of the Sámuels’ arrival seeps through the streets like a bad odour, these orthodox Jewish men dressed in black walk solemnly behind a horse drawn carriage, where their two wooden boxes – like children’s coffins – conceal a mysterious cargo. Clearly something has happened here that has left a sinister whiff of fear for all concerned, not least because of the local’s poor treatment of their Jewish neighbours during the war years. And as they past re-visits the present, the villagers know exactly why they should be scared.

Meanwhile, preparations for the evening wedding are underway. But the bride Kisrózsi (Dóra Sztarenki) is no virgin – she left her good-looking boyfriend Jancsi (Tamás Szabó Kimmel) to pursue a better offer from Arpad, who owns the profitable chemist store. But Arpad’s mother Anna (Eszter Nagy-Kálózy) has rumbled her and is well aware that Kisrózsi and Jancsi are still lovers. This appears to be a community seething in hatred, mistrust and envy, that comes from the outside and from within as they tolerate the constant strain of Soviet occupation.

The tone is very much like that of a darkly comic Midsommer Murders, as the Samuels’ tale intriguingly unfolds amidst a climate of fear and doom. Török and co-writer Gábor T. Szántó base their narrative on Homecoming, a short story where a guilty village serves as a metaphor for national shame, with each character determined to keep their secret in the face of the enemy they have wronged. DoP Elemér Ragályi’s beguiling black and white visuals recreate the 1940s in a mystery that relies on its ominous atmosphere and the strength of its performances, rather than dialogue, to tell a tale of vengeance and dishonour in post war Hungary.MT

NOW SCREENING NATIONWIDE from 12 October 2018

 

 

Swimming with Men (2018) **

Dir: Oliver Parker | Writer: Aschlin Ditta | Cast: Charlotte Riley, Rupert Graves, Rob Brydon, Nathaniel Parker,  Adheel Akhtar, Thomas Turgoose, Daniel Mays, Jim Carter | UK Comedy | 96′

Oliver Parker is clearly feeling for middle-aged men. His latest film is a  comedy that means well in tackling marriage breakdown and mid-life crisis from a male perspective. It sees Rob Brydon’s bored accountant Eric driven neurotic by his partner’s new success in politics (Jane Horrocks in fine form), while he sits on the sidelines, a disillusioned accountant – so what’s new?. The only thing that makes Eric happy is a dip in the local swimming baths where he bumps into a motley crew of jaded men also down on their luck, but not all past it. Agreeing to keep their personal lives strictly off-poolside, they gradually begin to find the life aquatic gives them a reason for living again. And limbering up with the encouragement of coach Susan (Charlotte Riley) they discover that swimming in sync is the answer to their woes, but not their flabby waistlines. So off they go to Milan.

Sound great, doesn’t it? And you could see where Parker was coming from. The problem is that the direction and writing are the only things out of sync in a comedy of woes that needed to be much tighter and funnier. There are some heartfelt performance from a brilliant British cast (Christian Rubeck is luminous as the token German),  and you can’t help feeling for these guys, particularly Luke (Rupert Graves) and (Thomas Turgoose). But there are hardly any laughs to be had from Ditta’s script, which mostly just feels embarrassingly over the top, or miserably maudlin, and too many lingering close-ups are nobody’s idea of fun.

SWIMMING WITH MEN | nationwide From July 6.

Edinburgh Film Festival 2018 | Award Winners

THE MICHAEL POWELL AWARD FOR BEST BRITISH FEATURE FILM

The winner of the prestigious Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film, which honours imagination and creativity in British filmmaking, went to British filmmaker Matt Palmer’s debut feature, CALIBRE, which received its World Premiere at the Festival.

The winner was chosen a Jury comprised of Ana Ularu, Jason Connery and Iain de Caestecker

THE AWARD FOR BEST PERFORMANCE IN A BRITISH FEATURE FILM

The award for Best Performance in a British Feature Film went jointly to actresses Liv Hill and Sinead Matthews for their roles in JELLYFISH and was also selected by the Michael Powell jurors.

 

THE AWARD FOR BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

The award for Best International Feature Film went to Cyril Shäublin’s THOSE WHO ARE FINE, which received its UK Premiere at this year’s Festival. The winner was chosen by the International Jury comprised of Gráinne Humphreys, Simin Motamed-Arya and Yung Kha.

THE AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM

The award for Best Documentary Feature Film went to Kevin Macdonald’s much-anticipated WHITNEY. This year’s jury was comprised of Gaston J-M Kaboré, Nada Cirjanic and Kate Muir.

EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL 20 June – 1 July 2018

Edinburgh International Film Festival | 20 June – 1 July 2018

Artistic Director Mark Adams unveiled this year’s programme for Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), with 121 new features, including 21 world premieres, from 48 countries across the globe.

Highlights include Haifaa al-Mansour’s long-awaited follow-up to WadjdaMARY SHELLEY, with Elle Fanning taking on the role of Mary Wollstonecraft, the World Premiere of Stephen Moyer’s directorial debut, THE PARTING GLASS, starring Melissa Leo, Cynthia Nixon, Denis O’Hare, Anna Paquin (who also produces), Rhys Ifans and Ed Asnerand an IN PERSON events with guests including the award-winning English writer and director David Hare, the much-loved Welsh comedian Rob Brydon and star of the compelling Gothic drama THE SECRET OF MARROWBONE, actor George MacKay, as well as the Opening and Closing Gala premieres of PUZZLE and SWIMMING WITH MEN.

BEST OF BRITISH

This year’s Best of British strand includes exclusive world premieres of Simon Fellows’ thriller STEEL COUNTRY, featuring a captivating performance from Andrew Scott as Donald, a truck driver turned detective; comedy classic OLD BOYS starring Alex Lawther; the debut feature of writer-director Tom Beard, TWO FOR JOY, a powerful coming-of-age drama starring Samantha Morton and Billie Piper; oddball comedy-drama EATEN BY LIONS; striking debut from writer and director Adam Morse, LUCID, starring Billy Zane and Sadie Frost; Jamie Adams’ British comedy SONGBIRD, featuring Cobie Smulders. Audiences can also look forward to a special screening of Mandie Fletcher’s delightfully fun rom-com PATRICK.

AMERICAN DREAMS 

This year the AMERICAN DREAMS strand has the quirky indie comedy UNICORN STORE, the directorialOscar-winning actress Brie Larson in which she stars alongside Samuel L. Jackson and Joan Cusack; the heart-warming HEARTS BEAT LOUD starring Nick Offerman; glossy noir thriller, TERMINAL, starring and produced by Margot Robbie and starring Simon Pegg and Dexter Fletcher; IDEAL HOME in which Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan play a bickering gay couple who find themselves thrust into parenthood; 1980s set spy thriller starring Jon Hamm, THE NEGOTIATOR; and PAPILLON, starring Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek.

EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVES

Notable features include 3/4  Ilian Metev’s glowing cinema verity portrait of family life. Malgorzata Szumovska’s oddball drama MUG that explores the aftermath of a face transplant; Aida Begic’s touching transmigration tale NEVER LEAVE ME highlighting how young Syrian lives have been affected by war; actor-turned-director Mélanie Laurent’s fourth feature DIVING, and Hannaleena Hauru’s thought-provoking THICK LASHES OF LAURI MANTYVAARA and the brooding and atmospheric drama THE SECRET OF MARROWBONE starring George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Mia Goth and Matthew Stagg.

WORLD PERSPECTIVES 

This offer a fascinating snapshot of developing world-cinema themes and styles such as BO Hu’s epic Chinese drama AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL; Berlinale award-winning South American dram THE HEIRESSESGIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY, a touching but darkly funny tale of a Chinese mother and daughter and Kylie Minogue starrer FLAMMABLE CHILDREN , a raucous comedy set in Aussie beachside suburbia in the 1970s. THE BUTTERFLY TREE starring Melissa George and Ben Elton’s THREE SUMMERS starring Robert Sheehan and set at an Australian folk music festival.

DOCUMENTARIES

This year’s EIFF programme features a strong musical theme from Kevin Macdonald’s illuminating biopic WHITNEY, about the life and times of superstar Whitney Houston; GEORGE MICHAEL: FREEDOM – THE DIRECTOR’S CUT narrated by George Michael himself and ALMOST FASHIONABLE: A FILM ABOUT TRAVIS directed by Scottish lead-singer Fran Healy. Audiences will be inspired by the creativity of Orson Welles in Mark Cousins’ THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES; HAL, a film portrait of the acclaimed 1970s director Hal Ashby; LIFE AFTER FLASH, a fascinating exploration into the life of actor Sam J. Jones.

DOWNRIGHT STRANGE

As the sun sets, audiences will be able to journey into the dark and often downright strange side of cinema, with a selection of genre-busting edge-of-your-seat gems including: the gloriously grisly psychosexual romp PIERCING starring Mia Wasikowska; the world premieres of Matthew Holness’ POSSUM and SOLIS staring Steven Ogg as an astronaut who finds himself trapped in an escape pod heading toward the sun; dark and bloody period drama THE MOST ASSASSINATED WOMAN IN THE WORLD and the futuristic WHITE CHAMBER starring Shauna Macdonald.

FOCUS ON CANADA 

The country focus for the Festival’s 72nd edition will be Canada, allowing audiences to take a cinematic tour of the country and its culture, offering insight as well as entertainment, from filmmakers new and already established. HOCHELAGA, LAND OF THE SOULS is an informative look at Quebec’s history; but possibly best to avoid the unconvincing FAKE TATTOOS opting instead for WALL, a striking animated essay about Israel from director Cam Christiansen and FIRST STRIPES a compelling look into the Canadian military from Jean-Francois Caissy.

Weather permitting, the Festival’s pop-up outdoor cinema event Film Fest in the City with Mackays (15 – 17 June) will kick off the festivities early, with the 72nd Edinburgh International Film Festival running from 20 June – 1 July, 2018.

Tickets go on sale to Filmhouse Members on Wednesday 23 May at 12noon and on sale to the public on Friday 25 May at 10am. www.edfilmfest.org.uk.

 

 

Daphne (2017) | Home Ent release

Dir: Peter Mackie Burns | Writer; Nico Mensinga | Cast: Geraldine James, Emily Beecham, Nathaniel Martello-White, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor | Comedy Drama | 88′ | UK

DAPHNE is a fresh and believable comedy about a spiky young Londoner who seems at odds with everyone and everything in her life. Played with verve by Emily Beecham, who won ‘Best Actress in a British Film’ at Edinburgh 2017 for her feisty take on today’s young womanhood, Daphne is the impressive feature debut of Peter Mackie Burns (Come Closer) who has the maturity to give the film a tongue in cheek lightness of touch that makes it so watchable. Nico Mensinga’s sparky script is fraught with witty insights capturing the capital’s contemporary snarky vibe.

Part of Daphne’s problem is her fractious relationship with her worldly-wise mother – a wonderful Geraldine James. She is also loath to admit her interest in the opposite sex, and fearful of rejection, she makes each flirty encounter a battleground, a move that only encourages prospective boyfriends, particularly Tom Vaughan-Lawlor’s Joe whose declaration of undying love sends Daphne running for cover, with a nonchalant ‘whatever’. To make matters worse, her job as a part time chef is going nowhere, especially Daphne down-spirals into self-destruction. We’ve all been there in various guises and DAPHNE certainly rings true. It’s a perky comedy drama that champions the kind of ennui emblematic of youth – boredom laced with episodes of vulnerability; a goalless existence borne with snappy impatience. Helped along by a breezy score from Sam Beste, DAPHNE is all about that mid-point in our twenties or thirties – that limbo-like state before we realise our full potential and where it could lead. MT

OUT NOW ON DIGITAL DOWNLOAD | DVD FROM 22 JANUARY 2018 |

 

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2017 | 21 June – 2 July 2017

Cannes was not the only film festival celebrating its 70th birthday in 2017. Edinburgh International Film Festival is the same shares the same anniversary and takes place from 21 June to 2 July, showcasing a total of 151 features from 46 countries including: 17 World Premieres, 12 International Premieres, 9 European Premieres and 69 UK Premieres.

gods-own-countyHighlights include the Opening and Closing Gala premieres of Yorkshire-set God’s Own Country and England Is Mine a biopic of Morrissey’s early life in 1970s Manchester before becoming the lead singer in seminal band The Smiths.

Kyra Sedgwick will attend the Festival with her screen debut Story of a Girl, along with the film’s star Kevin Bacon. And Stanley Tucci’s Berlinale drama Final Portrait, is also a highlight of this year’s celebration.

Whilst Cannes celebrated by inviting those having won the Palme D’Or to a lavish evening reception, Edinburth with mark the occasion with a retrospective entitled THE FUTURE IS HISTORY attracting guests including Richard E Grant, Peter Ferdinando, Steven Mackintosh, Kate Dickie, Tam Dean Burn, Bernard Hill, Matt Johnson, Gerard Johnson and Polly Maberly to support and deliver a range of exclusive events and film screenings.

18582514_10156335747454062_8855051153228850370_nThis year’s BEST OF BRITISH strand includes exclusive world premieres of Bryn Higgins’ Access All Areas, featuring Jordan Stephens – one half of hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks – on a group road trip to the Isle of Wight’s Bestival music Festival; Simon Hunter’s Edie, starring Sheila Hancock as an elderly woman who aims to climb a Scottish mountain; the Donmar Warehouse’s critically acclaimed all-female adaptation of Julius Caesar; and Danny Huston’s The Last Photograph. Audiences can also look forward to London based filmmaker Alex Barrett’s modern silent film London Symphony; an UK response to Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera and filmmaker Justin Edgar’s noir British thriller The Marker; Daniel Jerome Gill’s look at the perils of modern-day relationships in Modern Life Is Rubbish; Sarmad Masud’s My Pure Land, about a mother and daughter’s fight to protect their home; searing abuse drama Romans, starring Orlando Bloom; and moving family drama That Good Night, starring Charles Dance and the late, great John Hurt. Toby Jones stars in a psychological thriller Kaleidoscope; taut mother-daughter drama Let Me Go; the emotionally raw The Pugilist; Taiwanese drama The Receptionist; and This Beautiful Fantastic, starring Tom Wilkinson and Jessica Brown Findlay. Renowned Scottish author Ian Rankin who will present captivating crime drama Reichenbach Falls.

the_oath_poster(laurels)This year’s EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVES strand brings the latest from the continent in the shape of WWII drama 1945, Russian sci- fi Attraction; revenge drama Darkland; Nazi-euthanasia drama Fog in August that stars the Ivo Pietzcker who made his debut in Jack; and darkly humorous corruption drama Glory. There is also visceral Irish Medieval thriller Pilgrimage; Arctic Circle drama Sami Blood; stylish Spanish drama Sister of Mine; and the long-anticipated LGBT art biopic Tom of Finland; Fatih Akin’s roadie Goodbye Berlin;  Norway’s Oscar foreign language entry: The King’s Choice;  Catherine Deneuve’s latest drama The Midwife; and taut Icelandic thriller The Oath. 

SuenoThe WORLD PERSPECTIVES strand will feature Bong Joon Ho’s latest offering Okja, hot off the Cannes red carpet and starring EIFF honorary patron Tilda Swinton, and Indian road movie Sexy Durga; and the Sundance awarded: I Dream in Another Language – a moving study of language, heritage and hidden pasts;

DOCUMENTARY wise there is the enthralling Becoming Cary Grant, The Challenge – a look at the extravagant pastimes of the fabulously wealthy during one sporting desert weekend; Leaning Into The Wind the sequel to documentary hit River and Tides; Pecking Order that explores the world of chicken breeders; Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World, that studies the role of native Americans in popular music history.

1249182_afterimage_04-h_2016A special FOCUS ON POLAND will present a snapshot of one of the most vibrant cinematic landscapes in the world. An International Premiere of Katarzyna Adamik’s thriller Amok. Additional notable films will include: Andrzej Wajda’s final feature Afterimage; psychological horror Animals; coming-of-age fantasy The Erlprince; Łukasz Ronduda’s A Heart of Love; the colourful Satan Said Dance; the extraordinary The Sun, The Sun Blinded Me; You Have No Idea How Much I Love You – the film that questions what love really means; and the gut- wrenching Volhynia. The strand will also showcase Polish Shorts: Perspectives; Polish Shorts: 15 Years of Wajda School; and a free lecture by Rohan Crickmar on post-war Polish cinema – Diamonds Out of the Ashes: A Brief Survey of Polish Cinema 1946 to Present.

If the weather is kind to Edinburgh, there is also the Outdoor Cinema strand to look forward to, cashmere at the ready. MT

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL | 21 JUNE UNTIL 2 JULY 2017

 

 

 

 

Jet Trash (2016)

Director: Charles Henri Belleville

Cast: Sofia Boutella, Joelle Koissi, Robert Sheehan

Drama (2016) 80mins UK/India

JET TRASH isn’t exactly trash: the title refers to the aimless young drifters who arrive in India to ‘find themselves’, often finding themselves in more dubious circumstances, as they do here in Scottish filmmaker Charles Henri Belleville’s second roadie title – his debut one was The Inheritance. Gorgeously lurid and party-loving is how the billing describes this stylishly psychaedelic back-packer thriller that’s schematically plotted but well performed by a promising cast of British actors, amongst them the mesmerising Robert Sheehan. The takeaway is Belleville’s stunning ability to re-package quite ordinary material into something glamorously hedonistic and fun, albeit rather glib.

Aimed at the ‘millennial’ crowd and based on his book ‘Go’, Simon Lewis co-scripts with Dan M Brown to evoke the contempo zeitgeist where brash and privileged Brits ease themselves into adulthood not by hard work and entrepreneurial endeavour but by an infinitely more unimaginative and streetwise mix of drug-dealing and marrying for money (of the passport variety). The result is an under-scripted affair that leads its impressive cast on a predictable dance rather than an exciting journey.

Waking up on Christmas Day on a palm-fringed caster sugar beach was always going to be preferable to a wet one-bedder in Harlesden or some inner city tower block. And this is where our unappetising lead duo find themselves, after a dip and ‘one off the wrist’ in the crystal waters of Goa. Lee (Sheehan) and Sol (Osy Ikhile) have fetched up here courtesy of Sol trousering £17,000 in a dodgy marriage deal – to one Adeze (Adedayo), all pimped by the venal villain Marlowe (Craig Parkinson) who has knocked up his girlfriend Vix (Sofia Boutella) to keep her under control. Sadly, a sacred cow gets involved and, being India, the fallout is pivotal to the storyline of a sassy thriller that never takes itself too seriously and is all style over substance, but strangely none the worse for it.

By all accounts the cast and crew had a lovely time filming JET TRASH and it looks stunning too thanks to Maja Zamojda’s sumptuous cinematography and Laura Ellis Cricks’ vibrant set design. JET TRASH is just that: See it as a bit of a knees up and you won’t come away disappointed. MT

JET TRASH PREMIERED AT EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL 2016 AND IS NOW ON RELEASE AT VUE CINEMAS

Aloys (2016) | Bluray release

Writer|Director: Tobias Nölle

Cast: Georg Friedrich, Tilde von Overbeck, Kamil Krejci, Yufei Li

91min  | Drama  | Switzerland

Tobias Nölle’s second feature is a coldly rendered exploration of loneliness and isolation made all the more so by its impressive visual style.

ALOYS follows the unusual day to day activities of the eponymous central character, a soi-disant private investigator in an unnamed Swiss town. As the film opens, this hard-edged loner is mourning the death of his father, indicated by graphic images of his coffin and wake. Clearly distraught, Aloys has no interest in sharing his grief, preferring to retreat to his spartanly decorated flat to reflect and seemingly gloat on the footage recorded on his video cameo during the day’s investigations. This suggests he may even be a voyeur, such is his hostility towards the outside world and his clandestine satisfaction derived from these private scenes behind closed doors. Perusing footage of his father fills Aloys with genuine nostalgia suggestive of a close relationship based on filial adoration and respect. Noelle eschews dialogue for the most part, telling his tale visually, building a portrait of a deeply disturbed individual painfully aloof to the world; locked in the past; defensive and controlling of the present; fearful of the future; cloyingly locked in an oppressively dank rural location, oppressed by a ’70s-style palette of insipid aqua and beige.

Clicking backwards and forwards like his dated camcorder, things become increasingly dreamlike and fetishist as yellow tights are added to the motifs of dampness, condensation and foggy morning mists, almost as if Aloys is under the spell of a sickening succubus, he falls mysteriously asleep in a single decker bus where his camera equipment is stolen, including his footage. Phone calls from an anonymous female confound and anger him. He informs ‘the authorities’. They have to deal with it. Whether the thief responsible is the woman he filmed through a keyhole – or a fantasy figure – is unclear. Engulfed by fear and irritation, he retreats again. The stranger on the end of the line then introduces Aloys to the ‘telephone walk’, a method used by analysts in the therapy of reclusive types, whereby they are counselled by telephone in a less visually confrontational exercise in rehabilitation. This episode marks a shift in the tonal vibe from melancholy drama to upbeat fantasy, exploring the human need to reach out and connect intimately with like-minded souls. Sometimes difficult to engage with, ALOYS is a challenging film but visually very rewarding in its inventiveness and certainly one to watch out for in the upcoming season of arthouse releases. MT

REVIEWED AT BERLINALE 11-21 FEBRUARY 2016 |  NOW ON BLURAY COURTESY OF EUREKA MASTERS OF CINEMA

Bleak Street (2015) | Calle de la Amargura | Locarno International Film Festival 2016

Unknown-1 Director.: Arturo Ripstein; Cast: Nora Velazquez, Patricia Reyes Spindola, Guillermo Lopez, Juan Francisco Longoria;

99min | Mexico | Crime Drama

Mexican veteran director Arturo Ripstein (El Carneval de Sodoma) has again filmed a script by his partner Paz Alicia Garciadiego, telling the story of a double murder in the seedy atmosphere of downtown Mexico City.

As in most Ripstein films, destiny plays a major role in BLEAK STREET, a sordid area that certainly lives up to its name. The main reason for watching Bleak Street is the crisp black-and-white cinematography of DOP Alejandro Cantu, who shows the gloomy side streets and alleys of Mexico City with an intensity that echoes G W Pabst’s silent German classic Die Freudlose Gasse (1925) . Dora (Velazquez) and Adela (Spindola) are middle-aged whores down on their luck and lamenting the lack of work due to competition from younger talent. Experience seems to count for nothing. Their male dependants La Akita (Lopez) and Muerte Chiquita (Longoria), are twin brothers who are midgets who work in the wrestling ring where they support the normal seized fighters AK-47 and La Muerte. The brothers are so proud of their occupation they wear their masks even at home. Celebrating a big prize win in the ring they organise a special treat for their female companions which ends in tragedy all round. This is not Ripstein at his best: the main failing with BLEAK STREET being the two-dimensional characters who are not fully sketched out as real people; but simply there to carry out the film’s message – poverty ruins your life. But the gracefully choreographed shots of the dimly lit streets make up for the detachment the audience feels towards the protagonists.

In the aftermath, it becomes clear that the quartet was supposed to meet on a collision course and that the women’s guilt is secondary to the situation in which they find themselves. And how can the audience understand how masked men feel unless they take of their masks? There are other elements here of the silent films of that era, like the detective solving the murder, being seen not so much as a man of the law, but a rather sinister figure like the detectives in Fritz Lang’s films of the same period. AS

SCREENING AT LOCARNO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL  2016

Hide and Seek (2014)

Director: Joanna Coates

Cast: Hannah Arterton, Joe Banks, Daniel Metz, Rea Mole, Josh O’Connor

82min  Drama   US/UK

In the depths of an English summer, four loosely connected friends from London move into a remote country cottage with the aims of creating an environment free from social conventions including those of sexuality. Living in this intimate setting they hope to drift into a state of harmony where there are no boundaries and they will discover the missing element in their lives.

Joanna Coates first feature is an elegant and visually inventive art house affair. Evoking a suspenseful sense of intrigue from the opening, with an eclectic choice of music and her clever casting: a slightly neurotic Leah (Rea Mole), a relaxed and playful Charlotte (Hannah Arterton), ) an assured and assertive Max, (Josh O’Connor) and a placid American (Jack), Daniel Metz). This radical approach works well at the start especially as the foursome seem mutually attracted to one another. But it also feels slightly hopeful on the sexual front. That they are all going to casually sleep together on an ongoing basis seems naive and presumptuous. However, Joanna Coates’ well-paced drama makes this an enjoyable voyage of discovery, leaving us to guess how things will eventually work out with some spirit of faith. The characters are enigmatic yet plausible even though the physical side of their relationships gets considerably more exposure than the emotional and intellectual one. Although it often feels as if events and scenarios are being forced unnaturally by some outside party, somehow this works. The arrival of another male friend (Simon, Joe Banks) changes the dynamics abruptly. His inquisitive line of questioning and perceptive comments seems quite natural, in the scheme of things, and yet seem intrusive to the quiet cohesion of the existing group, which has reached a state of suspended nirvana.

But the psychological parlour games start to destabilise his equilibrium and when one of the girls attempts to force a fantasy scenario on him he makes a desperate attempt to inject a spirit of reality into the proceedings. Afterwards, it’s clear that the utopia has been challenged but also that an unwanted element of their former lives has been purged. A thought-provoking and engaging debut that explores the state of modern society, xenophobia, nuclear relationships the fear of loneliness. MT

Winner of the Michael Powell Award for Best British Film at the Edinburgh Film festival 2014, HIDE AND SEEK, opens  in selected cinemas across the country on Friday July

Homo sapiens (2016) | Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2016

Director: Nikolaus Geyrhalter | Documentary | Austria | 94 Min.

Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s sci-fi documentary HOMO SAPIENS imagines a world slowly won back from the human race by nature. Tackling topical themes of human fragility it silently explores what it means to be human in an age where humanity has wreaked so much damage on the earth and yet is precariously poised to self destruct. By way of stark visuals depicting abandoned churches, ravaged wastelands and buildings overgrown by nature’s inexorable grip. In this chilling exploration of man’s decline, Geyrhalter poses the inevitable question – What will remain of our lives after we’re gone.

Empty spaces, ruins, cities increasingly overgrown with vegetation, crumbling asphalt: the areas we currently inhabit in the name of ‘civilisation’ gradually disappear. Now abandoned and in varying stages of decay, these urban spaces are reclaimed by nature after emerging from it so long ago.

HOMO SAPIENS is Sci-fact; contempo and post-apocalytic but no human being actually appears in this paean to people. Geyrhalter uses fixed shots to convey this desolate landscapes, buildings, schools and government installations in far flung reaches of South America, Japan and deserted corners of Europe. He never attempts to explain or offer reasons for for their disuse or give any hope that they will be rebuilt or refurbished. This is the end of the line and the tone is morose and unsettling but also positive future for the animal kingdom. The documentary is silent save for Peter Kutin’s soundscape of windtorn and echoing remnants of civilisation where Nature finally holds sway. MT

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL 1-9 July 2016 | BERLINALE REVIEW | 11 – 21 FEBRUARY 2016

The Childhood of a Leader (2015)

Dir.: Brady Corbet; Cast: Tom Sweet, Berenice Bejo, Liam Cunningham, Stacy Martin, Yolande Moreau, Robert Pattinson;

UK/Hungary 2015, 113 min.

First time director Brady Corbet tries to engage with Jean-Paul Sartre’s L’enfance d’ un Chef (1938), crucially leaving out one of the main themes of the book – anti-Semitism – to end up with a caricature; in the process transforming the future petit-bourgeois ‘leader’ of Sartre’s work into a laughable, monstrous dictator by the ending.

Set in a French village after the end of WWI, little Prescot (Sweet) the son of an American diplomat (Cunningham) helping President Wilson with the Peace treaty and a German born, religiously devout Catholic(Bejo), is prone to histrionics and dark tantrums. Since both his parents are control freaks who take an emotionally distant interest in the boy (quite normal for the era) this is not particularly surprising. After his mother dismisses Mona (Moreau) the only person of any warmth in Prescot’s life, on the grounds of her disobeying orders, the wilful boy decides to stay in his room, rejecting figures of authority. The mother also sacks Ada (Martin), the boy’s French teacher. Finally, the father chases beat him brutally when he refuses him entry to his boudoir – where he literally is, as the word suggests, sulking. Childhood of a Leader ends as a farce, with the grown-up Prescot morphing into a ludicrously overbearing ruler.

Corbet’s debut is a muddled affair that attempts to keep us in the dark throughout: the tone is sinister and often terrifying, heightened by a ominous and melodramatic orchestral score. Does Presot’s father have an affair with Ada? Has the mother (an effectively coquettishly petulant Bejo)  has the mother slept with family friend (Pattinson)  mother f who comes for sporadic visits? Prescot seems to look more like him than his putative father. It’s uncertain. And finally, what is the reason for the mother getting rid of everyone who comes into daily contact with her son without replacing them?. The acting – apart from young Tom Sweet – is contrived and rather wooden, DoP’s Lou Crawley’s images are muddy and pseudo-naturalistic – pseudo being the operative word which characterises the whole production: bereft of any insight into psychological or political structures, this is a superficial travesty of Sartre’s novella. Quite why it was awarded the LEONE D’ORO for Best Debut is also unclear. Corbet has a future, let’s hope it’s a more promising one than that of his protagonist little Prescot. AS

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE | REVIEWED AT  VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 2015

Edinburgh Film Festival 2016 | What’s On?

Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), takes place between the 15th and 26th of June. Celebrating a landmark 70th edition, the Festival this year showcases a total of 22 World premiers from around the World.

BEST OF BRITISH

This year’s strand includes David Blair’s romantic drama AWAY, starring Timothy Spall and Juno Temple as two lost souls seeking solace under the lights of Blackpool while Rita Osei’s debut BLISS!, follows a teenage girl on a rite of passage journey of discovery across Scandinavia and Mercedes Grower’s offbeat debut BRAKES led by Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding. In the theme old age comes János Edelényi’s hilariously poignant THE CARER starring Brian Cox, who will be in attendance at this year’s Festival.

Will Poulter and Cara Delevingne lead a fantastic British ensemble cast in the sumptuous coming-of-age drama KIDS IN LOVE from Chris Foggin and, in a similar vein, Philip John takes us on an anarchic road-trip in MOON DOGS. More death scenes from Wales as twin librarians plan revenge in the quiet section in Euros Lyn’s Welsh-language THE LIBRARY (Y Llyfrgell) and brooding Scottish Icelandic Noirs PALE STAR and A REYKJAVIK PORNO are the latest outings from Scot Graeme Maley

Acclaimed artist Henry Coombes’ SEAT IN SHADOW is a witty and perspective study into the symbiotic relationship between an eccentric, part-time Jung-obsessed psychotherapist and his patient/muse.
Joanne Froggatt plays a woman attempting to keep her family together as her husband endures unimaginable pain in Bill Clark’s STARFISH. Ibiza-set crime thriller WHITE ISLAND from Benjamin Turner. Also in thriller territory, Agyness Deyn stars in dystopian THE WHITE KING from Alex Helfrecht and Jörg Tittel.

IN PERSON

A Celebration of the Films of Cinéma du Look retrospective will welcome legendary filmmaker Nagisa Oshima, the prolific producer of over fifty films, including 1983’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.

AMERICAN DREAMS

Maggies_Plan copyWelcomes the very best in new American independent cinema (left) including Rebecca Miller’s MAGGIE’S PLAN, with Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore each delivering pitch-perfect performances.
Meg Ryan’s directorial debut ITHACA, an elegant and moving story of a teenager delivering telegrams in World War II. The European Premiere of Rob Burnett’s THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING, a charming comedy-drama that pairs Paul Rudd and rising British star Craig Roberts as caregiver and dependent. Paco Cabezas’ MR RIGHT starring Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell as an oddball assassin. There will be a chance to see the International Premiere of fan fiction marvel SLASH and Steven Lewis Simpson’s road trip through Lakota country NEITHER WOLF NOR DOG.

THE DIRECTORS’ SHOWCASE

The Commune copyShines a light on the latest work from some of the world’s most highly-respected auteurs, each film offering an insight into perspectives and stories from across the globe. Screening over the course of the Festival are:

Bleak Street, Arturo Ripstein’s black and white tale of a pair of murderous Mexican lucha wrestlers
Dark Danish comedy The Commune (RIGHT) from Thomas Vinterberg
Hans Petter Moland’s gripping police thriller A Conspiracy of Faith
Giuseppe Tornatore’s The Correspondence, starring Jeremy Irons and Olga Kurylenko
Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s elegant Families
Kurdish docu-drama A Flag Without A Country from Bahman Ghobadi
Taika Waititi’s hilarious Hunt for the Wilderpeople, following Sam Neill and newcomer Julian Dennison into the New Zealand bush
Yeon Sang-ho’s vision of zombie apocalypse Seoul Station
Paddy Breathnach’s Viva, set amongst the colourful world of Havana’s drag clubs
Yoga Hosers, the latest madcap adventure from Kevin Smith

EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVES

Saint Amour copyThis year’s strand features a number of much anticipated films making their UK debuts:
Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi’s emotive Black, a story of forbidden love set on the streets of Brussels driven by a mesmerizing performance from newcomer Martha Canga Antonio. Florian Gallenberger’s ‘70s- set melodrama The Colony with Emma Watson and Daniel Brühl.
Gérard Depardieu stars in The End from Guillaume Nicloux and Saint Amour (ABOVE) by Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kerven; Jihane Chouaib’s sterling Go Home; Riotous Icelandic incest comedy The Homecoming by Björn Hlynur Haraldsson; Gripping legal drama Kalinka by Vincent Garenq; Kadri Köusaar’s pitch-black Estonian comic gem Mother; San Sabastian winner, a soulful coming-of-age drama  Sparrows by Rúnar Rúnarsson. The strand also boasts a World Premiere of Balazs Juszt’s supernatural thriller The Man Who Was Thursday

WORLD PERSPECTIVES

BrahmanNaman_still1_ChaitanyaVarad_ShashankArora_TanmayDhanania_VaiswathShankar__byTizianaPuleioThe strand delivers a global array of works from emerging and established filmmaking talents which include
India’s leading indie director Q’s coming-of-age comedy (RIGHT) Brahman Naman; Jon Cassar’s stoic western Forsaken, starring father and son Donald and Kiefer Sutherland; Assad Fouladkar’s study of romance in a sharia setting Halal Love (And Sex); Kim Sang-chan’s darkly eccentric Karaoke Crazies

DOCUMENTARIES

EIFF offers highlights in a genre that rightly continues to go from strength to strength. Titles include:
Andreas Johnsen’s challenging and thought-provoking documentary for foodies and environmentalists alike Bugs; Alexandru Belc’s love letter to the big screen Cinema, Mon Amour; Portrait of electro-music star Gary Numan: Android In La La Land by Steve Read and Rob Alexander; Mike Day’s ode to the Faroe Islands The Islands and the Whales; Niam Itani’s timely reflection on the place of refugees in the modern world Twice Upon A Time.

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL | 15-26 JUNE 2016

A Serious Game (2016) Netflix

Director: Pernilla August

114min Drama  Sweden

Pernilla August fails to convey the passion of her unrequited lovers in this Swedish answer to Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.

Adapted by Lone Scherfig from the 1912 novel by Hjalmar Soderberg, A SERIOUS GAME is another costume melodrama exploring the potent chemistry of sexual desire and longing in a story of sexual obsession. The couple in question, Arvid Stjarnblom (Sverrir Gudnason) and Lydia Stille (Karin Franz Korlof), never quite captivate our attention throughout this initially steamy bodice-ripper but August’s efforts are to laudable in her second feature.

Arvid is a young writer and proofreader for Stockholm’s main newspaper when he meets the daughter of one of Sweden’s most noted landscape painters, Anders Stille (Goran Ragnerstam): “I painted a completely blue canvas once, it’s in the National Gallery”.

This is the third screen adaptation of the story that follows the amorous exploits of starstruck lovers whose enduring ardour for each other is fated never to end in marriage, de-stabilising and upsetting everyone in their wake. Initially engaging, it eventually becomes tedious (along with its monotonous score) but offers a fascinating snapshot of early 20th century life in Swedish publishing and literary circles.

The couple first set eyes on each other at Lydia’s father’s summer cabin on an island near Stockholm. Lydia offering her beau one of her father’s paintings inscribed with the words: “Away. I long to get away.” Sadly Papa is to die leaving her without an inheritance and, without any means of supporting herself Lydia is forced to marry the wealthy, older Roslin (Sven Nordin). The lovers meet again years later when they are both married parents: Arvid has settled for an attractive and wealthy blond (gracefully played by Liv Moines).

This rather drably photographed romantic drama then goes backward and forward as the two make each other, and everyone else, unhappy with their illicit affair; hot-headed Lydia doesn’t quite think things through, deciding to leave her husband to return to the cabin and a rather passive Arvid, who shilly shallys all the way home. With neither character convincing beyond their vapid victim status, the narrative slowly unravels to a disappointing conclusion.

The more interesting characters here are seriously underwritten: Michael Nyqvist, as the charismatic newspaper publisher and Mikkel Boe Folsgaard (A Royal Affair) as the much maligned Lidner, the paper’s froeign correspondent, who Lydia truculently casts aside.

A SERIOUS GAME is indeed serious and rather depressing, the only fire coming from a initial spark of sexual ardour rapidly extinguished by a narrative whose central characters fails to exude any appeal for the audience. They can be forgiven, in part, for being young and aimless, but youth alone does not make for exciting viewing. MT

NETFLIX | REVIEWED AT BERLINALE FEBRUARY 2016

Welcome to Leith (2015) | Home ent release

Dir.: Michael Beach Nichols, Christopher K Walker | Documentary | USA 2015 | 85 min.

In 2012 Leith, North Dakota, had 24 inhabitants. An ex-boom town, left behind after the oil bonanza was over, only the most stubborn residents remained. To their great surprise, one man bought a property, unseen, for $5000, and promised to buy even more for his “friends”. This man was Craig Cobb (61), leading figure of the American National Socialist Movement (NSM).

Directors Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker followed Cobb while he attempted to turn Leith into a stronghold for his movement promoting racial hatred. By buying up all the cheap property, his aim was to gain control of the town run by Ryan Schock. WELCOME TO LEITH could easily be modelled on a novel by Jim Thompson: the psychotic Cobb wandering the streets of the town armed to the teeth, his house looking like a Christmas tree adorned with Swastikas of all sorts, advertising white supremacy. It’s worth noting that North Dakota’s population is already 90% white, and it is legal in the USA to display the Swastika symbol under the First Amendment, as ruled by the Supreme Court in 1978. Cobb and his sidekick, the much younger Kynan Dutton, took to patrolling the streets armed, and started to interrupt the City Council’s meetings. They also began a hate mail campaign, their main target being Sherill Harper, married to Bobby, the only black person in the town. “What are you doing married to a negro” they asked in a threatening manner, putting up also a sign “No Niggers in Leith”. Another target was Lee Cook and his family, who moved to Leith after their daughter was sadistically murdered, the NSM brigade trying blame racial motives for the crime, and disturbing the healing process for the family. On their “Vanguard News Network” Cobb and Dutton spread vile racist propaganda on the internet, portraying their “take-over” of Leith as a defensive stand on behalf of white people. Cobb, actually on the run for hate crimes in Canada and son of a multi-millionaire, had a DNA test taken, to prove his Aryan heritage. In front of an amused TV audience, it was announced that Cobb had 14% African blood in his veins.With help of the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), who keeps trace of White Supremacy groups in the USA (and whose funds were cut after 9/11), the citizens of Leith began their fight back, and the rest is history until the present day.

WELCOME  TO LEITH has all the qualities of a feature film, co-director/DOP Nichols achieving a true real crime atmosphere, the dilapidated, ghostly Leith the scary background to a story of violence, which could have escalated, had it not been for the solidarity of the town’s citizens. Somehow it seems fitting that the violent racists of the NSM choose a place so haunted as Leith, to build an Aryan model town. Taut and atmospheric, WELCOME TO LEITH captures true evil in the backwater of the USA. AS

NOW ON DVD | Documentary Prize Winner | East End Film Festival 2015 |

The Legend of Barney Thomson (2015) | DVD | VOD

Director: Robert Carlyle

Cast: Emma Thompson, Robert Carlyle, Tom Courtenay, Ray Winstone, Martin Compston

90min  UK   Comedy drama

Robert Carlyle plays the lead in his eponymous feature debut, a suitably gruesome urban comedy from the backstreets of Glasgow, where his character is a social misfit with a sideline in accidental murder.

Dark comedies are notoriously hard to handle but Carlyle pulls this off with a certain aplomb although some of the scenes could have done with a little less throttle (particularly the finale). As Barney Thomson, Carlyle cuts hair during the day and at nighttime goes home to his mum Cemolina, a corrosive, cackling, bronze-coiffed Emma Thompson with a permanent fag on the go and a penchant for Bingo. She never wanted Barney – the unfortunate product of a one night stand – and Barney’s snarky, bad-temper reflects this in angry outbursts at Henderson’s Barber Shop where, one day, he is given the sack. But Barney’s not having this, and things turn deadly in the ensuing fracas when his colleague Wullie (Stephen McCole) accidentally gets stabbed to death by Barney’s very own tools of the trade.

Unfortunately for Barney, the local police are conducting an investigation into a string of murders involving young men  whose body parts are being posted to various Scottish outposts. A severed penis arrives in Arbroath; a foot in Pitlochry and so on. Led by a mouthy (as always) Ray Winstone as the blundering Detective Inspector Holdall, the inquiry points a finger at Barney, who is seen loading a bulky object into his Nissan Primera by a curiously be-wiggged weirdo.

Traumatised by his crime, Barney goes into denial mode, hoping his mum will sort things out but the gorgonesque Cemolina (a hilarious Emma Thompson in full abandon) has better things to do such as relaxing on a two day £40 coach trip to the Isles with her bawdy Bingo pals. And the more Barney tries to cover up his wrongdoings the worse it gets.

Carlyle peppers his film with plenty of gritty Glasgow texture: Barrowland looms large along with the famous tenements and tower-blocks and the City’s sandstone landmarks, making this very much a postcard picture of his native Glasgow allbeit a grim and grotesque one. A man with an electronic voice-box is a macabre reminder of the social ills of a city where smoking is the national pastime.

Emma Thompson brightens each scene with her caustic portrayal of a woman of dubious origins who has resorted to a certain low cunning synonymous to make a success of economically challenged past and Barney discovers this to his horror when a well-dressed young man comes knocking at their front door responding to a small ad “from a woman looking for a night of unbridled passion”.  A certain poignancy piques the meltdown melodrama of the scene where Barney discovers his origins from his hard-nosed Mum, and Carlyle is restrained and melancholy in the title role.

The Legend of Barney Thomson is fast-paced, tightly scripted affair adapted by Richard Cowan and Colin McLaren from the series of seven Barney Thomson books by Douglas Lindsay. And very much like the city of Glasgow itself, it’s a cacophony of the good, the bad and the downright ugly. MT

PREMIERED AT EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL 2015 | NOW WINNER OF  TWO BAFTA SCOTLAND AWARDS FOR ‘BEST FILM’ & ‘BEST ACTRESS’ AT 2015 AWARDS CEREMONY

Under Milk Wood (2015)

Writer| Director: Kevin Allen

Cast: Rhys Ifans, Charlotte Church, Steffan Rhodri, Aneirin Hughes

87min   | Drama  | UK

When highly-coloured bits of plastic detritus bob along a fake sea bed in the opening titles to UNDER MILK WOOD you start to wonder if you’ve slipped into a screening of a Tellytubbies feature length drama. But the lilting Welsh voiceover is unmistakably the powerfully potent 1954 ‘play for voices’ by Dylan Thomas.

Kevin Allen’s ultimately pointless screen adaptation is a ghastly twee romp through a Welsh village. It is also the UK’s Foreign Language hopeful at the 2016 Academy Awards. And to top it all, it stars Charlotte Church (as the buxom Polly Garter). The whole point of this gorgeous play is to listen and imagine it, ringing out in richly evocative tones, as the lushness of its sumptuous imagery gradually unfolds in the subconscious to evoke a whimsical Welsh wonderland.

Take a paltry budget (hence the plastic) and some largely unknown actors (doing their best but cast simply through being Welsh) and you have a second rate production bristling with picture postcard lewdness that totally downgrades and denigrates one of Britain’s most wonderful and highly-regarded 20th century plays. What was Kevin Allen (Twin Town) thinking of?

The saving grace here is naturally the narration by Rhys Ifans, who can always carry a production with his exuberance and style. Starring as Captain Cat, one of the characters who dwells in the coastal village of Llareggub on whose musings the piece is based, he brings the drama to life with his sparky enthusiasm.

But the gently erotic immaginings of a Welsh seaside town become crude and tasteless under Allen’s direction. Instead of being the central focus and raison d’etre of Thomas’s creation, the velvety soft and sonorous sounds drift to the background as the dildo-shaped candles and bulging buttocks loom large. Shut your eyes if you want to enjoy this. MT

ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 30 OCTOBER 2015 | REVIEWED AT EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL 2015

 

45 Years (2015) | Berlinale | Silver Bears for Best Actor | Best Actress | Edinburgh

Director: Andrew Haigh   Writer: David Constantine and Andrew Haigh

Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James, David Sibley, Dolly Wells

93min   UK  Drama

The past can rock the future even in the toughest of relationships; chipping away at stable foundations; challenging deeply held beliefs and tricking the mind until nothing seems certain anymore. 45 YEARS is a sensitively-performed character study where an avalanche of feeling slowly builds momentum. Based on a short story by David Constantine, Andrew Haigh’s follow up to his breakout success WEEKEND (2011) is a drama full of the unexpected.

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay play retired couple, Kate and Geoff, now in their 45th year of marriage. Both have played vital roles in the Norfolk village where Kate is a retired headmistress and Geoff a former trade unioner. Clearly she is posher that he is and the more introverted of the two. Keeping a certain dignified distance from the world, she is elegant, understanding and discretely passionate. Geoff is clearly slightly older, more erratic in his moods and movements but less emotionally buttoned down, especially after a drink or two. Content to be together in companionable silence, they are sociable without being overly involved in the outside community and still enjoy occasional sex. There are no children to fuss over, but Kate walks in the countryside with her Alsatian, Max, and Geoff is an armchair philosopher dabbling in the works of Kierkegaard. Arrangements are in place for an anniversary celebration in the village and Kate is putting the final touches in place when Geoff receives a letter.

The body of his previous girlfriend, Katya, has been discovered after disappearing during their walking holiday in the early 60s. The news triggers a reaction in Geoff that cannot be brushed aside. At first, Kate is unperturbed by the news but gradually the ripples of this revelation ruffle their regular routine. The absence of any clarity from Geoff as to why the tragedy has affected him so deeply sends Kate rummaging through the attic looking for evidence.

Andrew Haigh’s drama offers endless opportunities for speculation: Does anyone really know their partner or, indeed, themselves? One of the photos Kate discovers seems to hint that Katya may have been pregnant, yet the childlessness of Geoff and Kate is never discussed? Perhaps they couldn’t have children together so this putative pregnancy pushes Kate over the edge leaving her feeling jealous and even envious of a child that was never born. Was their marriage built on rebound love: Did Geoff settle for second best and is their relationship just a sham? Endlessly, the narrative picks away at scabs long-healed and threatens to create new ones.

During the party, Geoff seems over-emotional but Kate is distant. Her friend Lena (a delightfully voluble Geraldine James) hints at tears for the men “they always break down’ and yet it appears that Kate is the one who feels more cheated; smiling through the pain of this sudden slap in the face, with a false bonhomie: all along she felt she had triumphed in the game in of life; came up and finished first – is she now just a disillusioned loser?

After a silent hour or so of the drama, the party band strikes up with Golden Oldies from the sixties. But are they tunes that Geoff enjoyed with Katya? The almost unbearably poignant dance scene is loaded with so much latent anger and unexpressed emotion it echoes that of PHOENIX (coming in May). This is a fine and complex drama featuring two skillful performances from a legendary British duo. MT

BERLINALE 5-15 FEBRUARY – ALL OUR COVERAGE IS UNDER BERLINALE 2015 DVD RELEASE 

 

.

 

Narcopolis (2015)

Dir.: Justin Trefgarne; Cast: Elliot Cowan, Robert Bathurst, Jonathan Pryce, Elodie Yung, James Caliss, Molly Gaisford, Cosima Shaw; UK 2014, 96 min.

NARCOPOLIS is a potent cocktail of Sci-fi and film noir and the feature debut of writer/director Justin Trefgarne who reminds us what cinema can really achieve. With a budget of around one million pounds, Trefgarne’s visionary approach is in stark contrast to many UK films which tend to be anaemic, ‘atmospheric’ studies lacking a narrative, or bland, TV-like unimaginative genre products.

Set in a dystopian London of 2024, burnt-out Detective Frank Grieves (Cowan) can hardly keep his family together, let alone fulfill his professional duties: in a society where drugs are free (and presumably safe), the police are consumers like everybody else. When Grieves finds a body with half its head missing and no recognisable DNA on the database, he stumbles into a mystery. His superior Nolan (Bathurst) pulls him off the case, but Grieves is stubborn and when he meets Eva Gray (Yung) who claims to be from the future, he starts to uncover a plot leading to Todd Ambro (Caliss), owner and CEO of the almighty drug company Ambro, who is controlling the police force and trying out an experimental drug aimed at dumbing down the population (surely this is the present?) . With the help of Sidorov (Pryce), an elderly scientist, Grieves must learn to time-travel: not only to save his son Ben, but the entire world in a show-down set in 2044.

Every scene in Narcopolis is stunning, Trefgarne pulls a powerful punch, even when sometimes less might have been more. DOP Christopher Moon has created a London that gleams and glitters on the outside but seethes in dankness where the action unfurls below.

A drug-riddled Grieves scuttles like a water rat running through a labyrinth, erratic and irrational. Everyone here has a function, Ambro’s wife Ellen (Shaw), a frosted beauty, who helps to represent her husband’s commercial façade of clipped respectability. In contrast, Grieves wife Angie (Gaisford), is harassed from the outset, pleading with her husband to leave the city for the sake of their son.

There are glaring plotholes: the time-travel mechanism is not very well explained, and Trefgarne quotes from classic noir and Sci-fi films are overdone – but the sheer brilliance of the images and a committed cast keep the audience engaged. logic only comes into play when the film does not convince (Hitchcock’s North by North West is simply barmy from a rational viewpoint), and Narcopolis’ low budget is in stark contrast to its high emotions and visionary images. Trefgarne might have put too much into Narcopolis, but that’s what first films are for. Recommended.

REVIEWED AT EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL |

Precinct Seven Five (2015)

Director: Tiller Russell

With: Michael Dowd, Ken Eurell, Walter Yurkiw, Chicki, Dori Eurell

104min  US

A documentary surrounding the life and crimes of the infamous, corrupt NYC cop Michael Dowd

True Crime doesn’t get more fascinating or entertaining than Tiller Russell’s film about a cop who swung between a life of crime and policing the notoriously deadly East NYC of the 80s and 90s when around 3500 murders were committed each year. This was a time when being a ‘good’ cop meant knowing how to cover your buddy’s back rather than being honest and capable. A Most Violent Year recently dramatised how individuals worked the system in the crime-ridden US capital but PRECINCT SEVEN FIVE goes a step further to explore how, according to Russell, most cops in the five-mile square stretch of territory that would “scare Clint Eastwood” were also, to some degree, in cahoots with a criminal network.

Seen in court appearances and in person as focus of the story, Michael Dowd emerges as a likeable and charismatic character sounding a bit like Joe Pesci. As Russell zips through the encyclopaedic details of his misdemeanours, a catchy score of eighties hits plays in the background rendering the full flavour of this emblematic era: tunes from the Stones, Serpico and so on. The piece is further enlivened by some classy black and white photos of the vintage.

The doc opens with footage of Dowd in the dock as he is investigated by a commission for police corruption in 1993. Flanked by his lawyer, he listens intently and admits to committing “hundreds of crimes” while serving as a police officer. The court appearances contrast starkly with his enthusiastic almost volatile contempo interviews that chronicle his fall from grace from a straightforward young police office in 1982 to a fully-fledged gangland operator. As is often the case, it all started as the ‘thin end of the wedge’ when he took a small bribe from a ‘perp’ he was apprehending at traffic lights. The fillip of each cash made him ‘feel good’, and gradually he was able to provide more luxury for his young family: new cars, trips, jewellery for his wife, and eventually even a holiday home in Florida.

Trust between cops is the badge of honour and the most important element of working in the Precinct and Dowd eventually partners up with Kenny Eurell, whose quiet attention to detail perfectly complimented Dowd’s negotiation skills on the streets. Meeting maverick arch crims, Dominican druglord Adam Diaz, and arch crim Baron Perez, (who operated a drugs ring fronted by a car stereo shop) they formed a mutually beneficial alliance which earned them thousands of dollars per week – the icing on the cake of their police wages, which covered their ordinary household expenses.

But the pair knew that these rich pickings couldn’t last forever; the guilt was taking hold of Dowd and spending sprees were starting to be difficult to conceal, especially when he took to driving a bright red Corvette Stringray. And he was also developing a cocaine addiction, when things started to go wrong.

Well-paced and wittily-scripted, PRECINCT SEVEN FIVE zips along and there’s a vicarious cheeky enjoyment that spills over from the confessions and revelations of these opportunistic yet ordinary men. It’s easy to see how the whole affair developed and somehow we don’t end up hating their guts: Russell ingeniously contrives to make the audience feel empathetic, even complicit, with the pair. Interestingly, in the end, Dowd emerges more regretful about damaging his personal relationships than remorseful for the crimes he committed. A rip-roaring ride through a NYC of the 80s-90s. MT

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE | REVIEWED AT EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL 2015

Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) | Best International Film | Edinburgh 2015

Director/Script: Marielle Heller

Cast: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kirsten Wiig

USA Drama 102mins

Edinburgh—Marielle Heller’s feature debut received its UK premiere in the aptly named ‘American Dreams’ section of the world’s longest continually running film festival. THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL is a tonally and emotionally complex rendering of a much-mined but often-misunderstood theme, namely female adolescent sexuality. Seen and narrated through the colourful prism of protagonist Minnie Goetz (Bel Powley), a precocious 15-year-old who embarks upon an affair with Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård), her mother’s (Kirsten Wiig) boyfriend, this coming-of-age drama is all the more unsettling for unfolding as a casual comedy, as the deeper ramifications of the ongoing affair at its centre are for the most part kept at bay.

Adapted from Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel, DIARY takes place in 1970s San Francisco, and employs its setting’s clichés (libertarianism, sexual experimentation, acid trips and so on) as a familiar backdrop only to lend it a new edge by the young filter through which its events are narrated (possibly unreliably). “I had sex today. Holy shit!” chimes the opening line, and the film, mirroring Minnie’s own impressionable, passionate imagination, barely stops to ponder the hurt and confusion that inevitably stems from an underage teenager finding herself romantically involved with a man twice her age.

Bechdel schmechdel: as if to make a point of the inefficacy of standardising feminist forms of filmmaking, Heller invests so heavily in her protagonist’s mindset that there’s not one instance here of a girl-to-girl chat that doesn’t centre in some way around a man. As an audience removed from the film’s timeframe by four decades, but one who might still relate to the universal truths of growing up, we have to buy into Heller’s vision or we’re alienated from the start. For Minnie, the only thing that matters is her approaching adulthood—something that finds its ultimate meaning in the sexual pursuit of an older man. Dues to Heller, though, for scraping a great deal of humour from these otherwise complicated moments—and for doing so in an involving rather than ironic way. One need only imagine the same material in the hands of, say, Todd Solondz to see the strength and audacity of Heller’s approach.

A lot of this rests on the characters and how they’re played. Powley, best known to British audiences for her role in the first two seasons of CBBC series M.I. High, was 21 when filming began, though she’s a fine fit here, excelling as a woman happily swept into a myopic navel-gazing rather than a fully formed, satisfying emotional connection to someone (hence the childlike voiceover, and the animated interludes). Heller does well not to vilify Monroe even while making it clear that he’s a bit of a lout and no real prospect for Charlotte, Minnie’s mother, never mind Minnie herself. Skarsgård gives a delicate rendition, and it’s to his and the filmmakers’ credit that the character comes across as an ordinary rather than a monstrous guy, his deeds the result of gross misjudgement rather than predatory instinct.

The film’s biggest weakness might be Charlotte. Wiig does what she can here, but in spending much less time on her, Heller fails to elevate the character above a chain-smoking divorcee, a 1970s stereotype. It’s in the dialogue, mostly: throwing accusations of “bourgeois… fascist, misogynistic bullshit” around freely, Charlotte is painted in broad brushstrokes in comparison to the more pointillist construction of Minnie. Rather than fulfilling the requisites of a genuinely moving drama, it keeps the film rooted to a diaristic dispatch. MICHAEL PATTISON

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 7 August 2015 | Reviewed at EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL | 17 – 28 JUNE 2015

Prophet’s Prey (2015) | Edinburgh Film Festival 2015

Director: Amy Berg

With Jon Krakauer and Sam Brower and Nick Cave

90min  Documentary  Biography

Religious cults also provide rich pickings for film documentaries. And accomplished documentarian Amy Berg’s study of the cult leader and serial child abuser, Warren Jeffs, is no exception: although you wish she could have delved a little deeper into the personalities and psychology of the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). PROPHET’S PREY, although well-crafted and riveting doesn’t reveal more than has already been documented across the media.

By way of background, the FLDS are a splinter sect of the Mormons and were outlawed when they refused to give up polygamy. Based on research by investigator Sam Brower and the bestseller of investigative journalist Jon Krakauer ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’, Berg’s documentary chronicles how cult leader, mega-polygamist and pasty-faced preacher, Warren Jeffs, by process of mind control and indoctrination, gradually took over this extremist religious movement from his position as Principal at the Salt Lake City high school, Alta Academy. What emerges here is not his desire for sex with multiple partners (of both sexes), but more his megalomania and need to manipulate and dominate, which started with his own family members, including his sister. In short, what Jeffs really got off on was the ability to reduce his fellow humans to pure minions under his over-arching superiority, both mental and physical. In effect, he was the deity that his adherents worshipped and obeyed.

Through the talking heads of Krakauer, the intellectual, and Brower the doer; Berg shows how the two played a major part in Jeffs’ arrest and capture, at the height of his power. The FDLS is a highly secret organisation that intimidates women and children and, operating with CCTV at every corner of the community, questions and eliminates any outside who strays into their open compounds, nestling in ‘some of the best real estate between Utah and Arizona. Gaining huge financial leverage over his community by forcing the families to pool their resources and entrust his with the spoils, their leader Jeffs gains complete dominion while they become, in effect, complete prisoners, in a regime of absolute power. Cowering under Jeff’s control, the women are reduced to an almost catatonic state of submissiveness as they roam around in family groups, dressed in 19th century attire (long Laura Ashley-style dresses) topped off with ornate hairdos. Watching the footage recorded by Krakauer, from the safety of his SUV, is really quite eerie and unsettling.

In his calm but controlling monotone voice, Jeffs prophesies doom to his flock if they deviate from his control. When the World didn’t end in 1999, as he had predicted, and his followers failed to be beamed up to Heaven, Jeffs claims it was because they had been unworthy. In this way, he has answer for everything. Members of his family who have managed to escape shed light on the community, by relating their shocking experiences to camera, but it still feels that Berg is merely scratching the surface of this dreadful human tragedy. Through their investigations, Krakauer and Bower manage to get Jeffs on the FBI’s Most Wanted List leading to his eventual arrest in Nevada.

Berg’s collaborators Scott Stevenson and Brendan Walsh assemble a fascinating array of pictures and news footage that enliven this spooky and quite nauseating saga, Nick Cave occasionally narrates and provides the film’s atmospheric original score. MT

SCREENING AT EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL | 17 -28 JUNE 2015

 

Last Days in the Desert (2015) | Edinburgh Film Festival 2015

Director: Rodrigo Garcia

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ciaran Hinds, Tye Sheridan, Ayelet Zurer

98min   Historical Drama

“Forty days and forty nights, thou wast fasting in the wild; Forty days and Forty nights Tempted and yet undefiled”.

Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubeszki takes what could have been just another addition to the Jesus and father|son sub-genres and transforms it into something ethereal and luminous in Colombian writer|director Rodrigo Garcia’s LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT.

The message of the Lenten parable can be interpreted in many ways, here Ewan McGregor is cast as a strongly self-critical but sympathetic Jesus, whose ‘shadow’ torments him as Lucifer (a mirror image often sharing the same frame) or a metaphor for evil. As ‘Yashuya’ nears Jerusalem at the end of his time of meditation in the arid wilderness (actually California’s Anza-Borrego Desert), Jesus confronts a final test when he meets a family in crisis: an anxious father (Ciaran Hinds); a frustrated son (Tye Sheridan) and a wife (Ayelet Zurer) who is slowly wasting away from an incurable disease.

Solemn in tone, Rodrigo Garcia’s serene and contemplative film is high-minded, as you might expect from the subject matter. It is also full of riddles, ambiguous dialogue and mysterious mirror images of Jesus’s shadow who persistently taunts and tempts him in his final days before the crucifixion. There is even a wicked crone who asks him for water but then reveals her true identity.

A stone mason, Hinds is attempting to build his son a home on the edge of a precipice (with a view to die for, perfectly captured by Lubeszki’s visuals that reflect each subtle nuance of light from dawn ’til dusk), but his son is keen to explore the World beyond this dry desert and engages eagerly with his new found holy mentor on their trips to the watering hole. Slow-paced but strangely mesmerising, the narrative builds towards an unexpected twist which generates surprising tension, and the performances, particularly those of Tye Sheridan and McGregor are illuminating and thoughtful.

As the ‘Jesus oeuvre’ goes, McGregor feels like a more sardonic version of Pasolini’s newcomer Enrique Irazoqui in The Gospel According to Matthew – what he lacks in Irazoqui’s purity and vulnerability he makes up for in his constant self-reflection and self-criticism which reduces him to a humble figure. As a meditation of the powers of good and evil, THE LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT is reflective and edifying. There are no acts of God or parting waters but there are some understated moments of surrealism and the quiet contemplativeness of the piece offers food for thought if not Manna from Heaven. MT

SCREENING DURING THE EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL | 17 -28 JUNE 2015.

Len and Company (2015) | Edinburgh Film Festival 17 – 28 June 2015

Director: Tim Godsall     Script: Tim Godsall, Katharine Knight

Cast: Rhys Ifans, Jack Kilmer, Juno Temple

USA/Canada Drama 105mins

Montreal-born Tom Godsall brings together a veteran and a newcomer by way of a rising star in his debut feature LEN AND COMPANY, in which Rhys Ifans plays crabby superstar music producer Len, who wearily retreats to his country home in Upstate New York followed by his aspiring and retiring rockstar son Max (Jack Kilmer) and his newest award-winning collaborator Zoe (Juno Temple). Commendable primarily for allowing a limited performer like Ifans to play to his strengths, this curious and mostly understated drama world-premieres at the 69th Edinburgh International Film Festival.

From the moment we first set eyes on Len, whose comical grouchiness offsets the otherwise cheery tempo of Ian Dury’s ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick,’ we infer the story to come: stubbornly irritable old hand retires for some peace and quiet, only for the weak foundations of his idyll to be uprooted by unwelcome if belatedly appreciated visitors. If the particulars aren’t entirely precise, the general gist is there: it’s not long before Len’s son Max shows up, complete with inoffensively bland hairdo and a secret desire to have his dad listen to a new demo he’s made with some pals. Max finds it difficult to connect with his dad; the latter even responds to the mention of a Liverpool football match with a curt dismissal. It’s only when Zoe, the outwardly feisty but vulnerable popstar with whom Len has just made a hit record, also shows up that Len’s paternal and professional laziness are finally confronted.

For the most part (though it has its pitfalls, the most risible of which involves a final act visit from one of Zoe’s admirers) Godsall’s script, co-written with Katharine Knight, unfolds by way of casual segues rather than dramatic standoffs—unexpectedly so, perhaps, given the director’s success making TV commercials. André Pienaar’s consistently unshowy autumnal cinematography, meanwhile, helps to further subdue any would-be melodrama. The emphasis here is more on those unspoken wishes, the ones that gnaw away from within. Whatever kind of resolution is on the cards, here, it’s to be embodied by Ifans’s trademark raised eyebrow—and little more.

It’s a giant in-joke by now that any film character would find Ifans remotely appealing, and details about Len’s own artistic success here are suitably scant. Worn out by his own lifestyle and barely ready to admit to anything resembling regrets, Len prefers to sit around watching old episodes of The Sweeney and Blackadder on DVD. Likewise, Ifans keeps things relatively low-key, delivering lines like “she was an underfed coyote, poor thing” and “cheeky fucking cunt bastard” with a functional rather than expressive register. It’s a clever casting choice, all told: opposite Kilmer (Val’s son) and Temple, Ifans cuts an effectively exhausted figure, as much bemused as anyone by his own longevity. MICHAEL PATTISON

PREMIERING AT EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL | 17 – 28 JUNE 2015

Therapy for a Vampire | Der Vampir auf der Couch (2014) | Edinburgh Film Festival

Writer|Director: David Rühm

Cast Tobias Moretti, Jeanette Hain, Cornelia Ivancan, Dominic Oley, Kark Fischer

87min  Gothic Horror   Austria

Austrian auteur David Ruhm adds a stylish and witty contribution to the blood-bloated canon of the Vampire genre here with a Freudian-themed thirties pastiche THERAPY FOR A VAMPIRE.

In his Viennese consulting rooms in 1911, Dr Sigmund Freud (Karl Fischer) is conducting an early experiment using Art Therapy to explore his patients’ dreams. Naturally, given the title, one of his most illustrious patients is experiencing some challenging ‘issues’. Count Geza von Közsnöm (Tobias Moretti) is suffering from a generalised ennui: having lived for thousands of years, he’s simply tired of life and the sex with his wife, the strikingly sultry Gräffin Elsa (Jeanette Hain) has simply lost its bite. He is also haunted by the premature death, centuries earlier, of his true love, Nabila.  When he sees a portrait of a woman painted by Viktor (Dominic Oley), Freud’s inhouse artist, he is struck by a mysterious ‘deja-vu’ between the subject of the painting, Lucy (Viktor’s girlfriend played by Cornelia Ivancan), and his own long lost lover.

Back in their bijoux castle in the wooded suburbs of Vienna, Count Geza enthuses over Viktor’s artistic skills to the emotionally needy and narcissistic Graffin Elsa, who is having serious problems with her image. Unable to see herself in a mirror, she implores Count to commission Viktor to paint her portrait.

Rühm has crafted two very appealing vampires here, who are not only stylish and drôle but also have lost none of their dark weirdness, in echoes of Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in Only Lovers Left Alive, although this is a far more stylised drama. Drinking blood from transfusions they are able to define the exact profile of their victims – young Virgin, aged Diabetic – and so on – without the inconvenience and mess of blood spurts and uncontrollable haemorrhaging on their beautifully hand-tailored attire. They are endowed with all the traditional Vampire capabilities of bestial transformation, they quail away from crosses, garlic and wooden stakes but they also embody the more playful attributes of irony and self-parody as seen in The Munsters. But it is their obsession with counting objects that is their final downfall.

Beautifully-crafted and sumptuously staged, the success of Rühm’s Gothic horror piece lies in this combination of sinister weirdness and seriously dark humour, and there are some unexpected quirky laugh out loud moments that make this really entertaining. And although it never fully explores the Freudian premise, it pays homage to the legendary therapist in its themes of unrequited love, vanity and sexual obsession. Performances are consistently good: the two female leads are far from pliant, adding a foxy feminist streak to their Gothic horror credentials. Viktor is sensitive and appealing and Count Geza sneeringly wicked and elegantly masculine.  MT

THERAPY FOR A VAMPIRE | EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL | 17 – 28 JUNE 2015

Every Secret Thing (2014) | Edinburgh Film Festival 17 -28 June 2015

Director: Amy Berg,  Writer: Nicole Holofcener

Cast: Diane Lane, Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Banks, Danielle MacDonald, Nate Parker

99min  Psychodrama | Mystery | US

Oscar-nominated Amy Berg brings her documentary expertise (West of Memphis | Deliver Us From Evil ) to bear in this feature debut that makes an interesting pairing with her documentary Prophet’s Prey, also screening at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, touching on similar issues. Although initially challenged by its fractured narrative style that takes place in two different time lines, the overtly sombre-toned psychological drama, based on  Laura Lippman’s best-seller, goes on to exert a relentlessly unsettling grip throughout its 93 minute running time.

This is largely down to four good female performances from Elizabeth Banks, Diane Lane, Dakota Fanning and Danielle Macdonald). Ronnie and Alice, (played as adults by Dakota Fanning and Danielle Macdonald, respectively) are suspected of kidnapping two mixed-race kids in separate incidents a decade apart. We join the story as an investigation into the latest disappearance is taking place in contempo New York state. And gradually we discover more about the initial crime which resulted in the young girls being incarcerated for 10 years until they emerge as women in their late teens. Told through flashbacks with mock newspaper footage and news bulletins, the original murder is relayed from the perspective of the young girls, as the real story only emerges in the final stages of the movie.

Skilful edits require intense concentration as we bring our instincts to the forefront. In analysing the characters of the girls and their families,  we become involved in determining the upshot of a story of female disturbance and deception that is open to so many different possibilities, twists and turns. Berg casts aspersions at a dreadful early childhood for both Alice and Ronnie but the circumstances surrounding their start in life, that lead them to become, in effect, psychopaths, is shrouded in mystery. Even at the finale, there is no way of knowing exactly who initiated the kidnapping or who committed the murder although it is possible to make an educated guess based on our own experience and intuitions. There is also the element of false memory that makes this a very exciting and engaging drama, particularly from a feminine perspective.

Themes of parenting, bullying, dating, adoption, the break-down on the family unit and its affects on female relationships, not to mention issues of re-integration into the community, are all carefully woven into the storyline and seen from each different female’s perspective with Rob Hardy’s stunning cinematography which incorporates inventive camera angles and a haunting original score from Robin Coudert (Populaire).

Diane Lane is superb as a single mother who appears to be grappling with a difficult daughter who she is also in competition with, as a female. Dakota Fanning is mesmerising, particularly in one scene where she attains almost horror status as a outwardly vulnerable but clearly cunning individual. But Danielle MacDonald gives the most frightening turn as a narcissistic fantasist with body image issues. And last, but not least, Elizabeth Banks plays an awarded woman detective tasked with investigating the case and bringing her own psychological insight into this nest of vipers. You will have a field day. MT

EVERY SECRET THING screens at EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL | 17 -28 JUNE 2015.

Edinburgh Film Festival | 17 – 28 June 2015

imageThe Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) is the same age as CANNES Film Festival and this year celebrates its 69th Edition with 24 World Premieres.

This year’s stars on the Tartan Carpet of Scotland’s capital city will be Malcolm McDowell, there to present his latest film BEREAVE and Ewan McGregor with his new drama LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT.

Hot tickets are for Asif Kapadia’s brilliant biopic AMY and LOVE & MERCY which explores the Beach Boys Legend Brian Walker. Another reason to head North is for Berlinale breakout hit 45 YEARS, starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay and competing in the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature.

10 - Iona dancing at the ceilidh copyMICHAEL POWELL AWARD FOR BEST BRITISH FEATURE

Other premieres hopefulls for the Award are Welsh-set drama BLACK MOUNTAIN POETS with Tom Cullen, Joseph Bull; Luke Seomore’s BLOOD CELLS about a farmer’s son and his nomadic lifestyle and Simon Pummell’s complex sci-fi thriller BRAND NEW-UJake Gavin’s HECTOR stars Peter Mullan as an affable homeless man; Martin Radich’s NORFOLK, is a haunting and atmospheric film starring Denis Ménochet; Steven Nesbit’s Romeo and Juliet style drama NORTH v SOUTH has Greta Scacchi, Steven Berkoff and Bernard Hill; BAFTA-Scotland award-winner Colin Kennedy makes his feature debut SWUNG; Jane Linfoot’s powerful psychological drama THE INCIDENT, starring Ruta Gedmintas and Tom Hughes as a young couple whose comfortable life is disrupted when a troubled teenage girls enters their life and Ludwig and Paul Shammasian’s THE PYRAMID TEXTS starring James Cosmo. And last but not least, Helen Walsh’s first feature as writer/director, THE VIOLATORS, follows two young girls from radically different backgrounds who meet and set off on a course which has profound implications all round.

THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON, Robert Carlyle’s directorial debut will open the Festival and IONA, Scott Graham’s striking family drama has been chosen as the Closing Night Gala. These British dramas are also in contention for the Michael Powell Award.

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE COMPETITION

StanfordPrisonExperiment_still1_BrettDavern_TyeSheridan__byJasShelton_2014-11-26_11-39-11AMWorld Premiere LEN AND COMPANY from Tim Godsall; Rick Famuyiwa’s coming of age tale for the post hip-hop generation DOPE; Oliver Hirschbiegel’s tense World War II drama 13 MINUTES; I STAY WITH YOU by Artemio Narro; and Niki Karimi’s enthralling drama NIGHT SHIFT. Marielle Heller’s THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL stars rising actress Bel Powley, Kristen Wiig and Alexander Skarsgård; Doze Niu Chen-Zer’s PARADISE IN SERVICE is a non-judgemental portrait of life in a military-run Taiwanese brothel; YOU’RE UGLY TOO, an engaging drama from Irish director Mark Noonan; Ole Giæver and Marte Vold’s OUT OF NATURE is set in the great Norwegian outdoors; 600 MILES, a moody crime thriller from Mexican director Gabriel Ripstein starring Tim Roth, who recently entranced the Cannes crowd with his tour de force as a care-worker in Chronic; Sundance outing THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT (pictured) examining a psychology professor’s experiment gone wrong, and MANSON FAMILY VACATION, a boldly original look at family relationships from J Davis, round off the International Feature Film Competition.

DOCUMENTARY STRAND

OC766838_P3001_186220-copy-610x250PROPHET’S PREY from Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg, looking at the megalomaniacal leader of a fundamentalist church; Tiller Russell’s gripping PRECINCT SEVEN FIVE examining police corruption out of control; Marah Strauch’s vertiginous tribute to founding father of BASE jumping Carl Boenish SUNSHINE SUPERMAN and the World Premiere of WHEN ELEPHANTS FIGHT, an eye-opening spotlight on Britain’s ties to the illicit trade in Congolese conflict minerals, directed by Michael Ramsdell. Included in the line-up are Crystal Moselle’s Sundance sensation THE WOLFPACK, documenting an extraordinary family of film lovers who rarely leave their Manhattan home;  Ilinca Calugareanu’s CHUCK NORRIS vs COMMUNISM, which charts an opportunistic hustler creating a videotheque resistance in the face of 1980s Romanian communism; Damon Gameau’s devastating look at our everyday inadvertent sugar intake in THAT SUGAR FILM; and DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: THE STORY OF THE NATIONAL LAMPOON by Douglas Tirola. Rounding out the Documentaries, including those announced previously, are David Nicholas Wilkinson’s enthralling journey into the origins of cinema THE FIRST FILM; a delve into the delights of sherry in José Luis López-Linares’ SHERRY & THE MYSTERY OF PALO CORTADO; Paul Goodwin’s entertaining look at the British sci-fi comic institution FUTURE SHOCK! THE STORY OF 2000AD; a love song to the rip-off Turkish pop cinema of the 60’s and 70’s REMAKE, REMIX, RIP-OFF directed by Cem Kaya; an insight into the Bedouin traditions of camel pageants and auctions, with one woman breaking taboos in NEARBY SKY by Nujoom Alghanem; THE IRON MINISTRY’s (pictured) engrossing portrait of China’s railways by JP Sniadecki; Mark Cousins’ documentary with premiered at last year’s Venice: 6 DESIRES: DH LAWRENCE AND SARDINIA in which he explores a journey through Sardinia where Lawrence travelled with his wife in 1921,

AUDIENCE AWARD

UMW 1 copyEIFF will also host the World Premiere of the English-language version of UNDER MILK WOOD from Kevin Allen, a beautiful film adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ iconic classic starring Rhys Ifans and Charlotte Church. Other Audience Award nominees include Jon Watts’ thrilling COP CAR starring Kevin Bacon who plays a sheriff with plenty to hide and Patrick Brice’s smart and funny sex comedy THE OVERNIGHT starring Jason Schwartzman and Taylor Schilling; DESERT DANCER starring Reece Ritchie and Freida Pinto in the truly inspirational story of choreographer Afshin Ghaffarian; the World Premiere of actress Talulah Riley’s debut as writer/director, SCOTTISH MUSSEL; David Blair’s supernatural thriller THE MESSENGER and Isabel Coixet’s LEARNING TO DRIVE starring Patricia Clarkson and Sir Ben Kingsley.

The American Dreams strand looks at the very best new works from American independent cinema and showcases an exciting and varied group of films. Highlights include Gina Prince-Bythewood’s enthralling musical melodrama BEYOND THE LIGHTS starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Minnie Driver and Danny Glover and the UK Premiere of FRANNY starring Dakota Fanning, Theo James and featuring a powerhouse performance from Richard Gere as a billionaire philanthropist.

DIRECTORS’ SHOWCASE

She_s_Funny_That_Way_4Worth a watch are David Gordon Green’s tale of loneliness and longing, MANGLEHORN, with Al Pacino and Holly Hunter;  Peter Bogdanovitch’s SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY (pictured), plus Masaharu Take’s award-winning story of a young Japanese woman who morphs into a boxer in 100 YEN LOVE and Nobuhiro Yamashita’s quirky offbeat romantic comedy LA LA LA AT ROCK BOTTOM.

NIGHT MOVES  a journey into the dark, thrilling and chilling side of cinema is guaranteed to delight horror fans with a selection of edge-of-your-seat cinematic gems. Feature films include multi-award winning director Bruce McDonald’s horrifying tale of evil trick-or-treaters, HELLIONS; Corin Hardy’s brilliantly terrifying debut feature THE HALLOW which screens in partnership with Scotland’s award-winning Horror festival, Dead by Dawn; Hungarian director Károly Ujj Meszáros’ fantasy film LIZA, THE FOX-FAIRY, and the World Premiere of British director Justin Trefgarne’s NARCOPOLIS starring Elliot Cowan as a troubled cop.

FOCUS ON MEXICO, in partnership with the Year of Mexico in the UK, showcases some of the very best in Mexican cinema including new feature films, classics and a short film programme, with a total of 13 feature films screening at the Festival. These include the European Premiere of Gabriela Dominguez Ruvalcaba’s fascinating documentary THE DANCE OF THE MEMORY; a sexually-charged, grown up study of infidelity, discontent and regeneration in Ernesto Contreras’ THE OBSCURE SPRING; and THE BEGINNING OF TIME by Bernardo Arellano which looks at ageing and survival during economic and social unrest in Mexico. A selection of Classic Mexican films will also screen as part of the Focus, including Roberto Gavaldón’s supernatural drama MACARIO (1960), the first Mexican film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Carlos Enrique Taboada’s POISON FOR THE FAIRIES, an unusual gothic tale of witchcraft, told from a child’s point of view.

CULT CLASSIC STRAND

54 copyCLASSICS offers Mark Christopher’s belated director’s cut release of his cult disco film, 54: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT; (pictured) a remastered version of Carol Reed’s classic film THE THIRD MAN starring Orson Welles, and a screening of Joseph Sargent’s THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE.

So,to round up, the 69th Edinburgh International Film Festival opens with the World Premiere of Robert Carlyle’s Glasgow-set THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON starring Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson and Ray Winstone, and the Closing Gala is the World Premiere of Scott Graham’s IONA starring Ruth Negga (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D), Douglas Henshall (Shetland), Tom Brooke (The Boat That Rocked), Michelle Duncan (Atonement), Ben Gallagher and Sorcha Groundsell. MT

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL | 17 – 28 JUNE 2015

Blood Cells (2014)

Directors| Joseph Bull | Luke Seomore

Cast: Barry Ward, Chloe Pirrie, Hayley Squire

86min  UK    Drama

Barry Ward gives an intensely heartfelt turn in this doom-laden debut drama that pictures Britain as a sombre soul that has lost its way: untethered from its agrarian roots, haunted by the past, drowning a mire of cultural dislocation. Ward plays Adam, one of as a stream of people who are struggling to make sense of their lives, adrift from family and  meaningful identity.

Told through David Proctor’s hauntingly evocative wide-screen visuals and intimate close-ups, BLOOD CELLS is a poetically poignant low-budget drama from Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore, whose powerful documentary Isolation explored the tragic aftermath of war for injured British Servicemen .

In the post apocalypse of Foot and Mouth disease, Adam’s family farm on the Yorkshire Dales has suffered a crippling loss, leading to the widescale slaughter of livestock and his father’s suicide, pictured in the tragic opening scenes. Adam has wandered around aimlessly in search of work, desperately clutching at the straws of previous loves and relationships until his brother, Aiden gives him the chance to reunite with the family for the birth of his first child. Making his way home involves an uncertain journey into a lonely past as Adam rakes over the ashes of his youth. The wretched recollections of the past, seen in vivid flashback, continue to dog his days, undermining his mental wellbeing as he struggles on, often close to tears.

In one vignette, he finds himself in a bleak seaside backwater in Rhyl where his ex-girlfriend Lauren (Chloe Pirrie from Shell), bitterly rejects his attempts to re-kindle their romance. In a nightclub he meets a couple of girls who echo his sentiments of loss and disorientation in their own young lives, presenting a pitiful portrait of young and directionless life. Heading to Sheffield, Adam discovers that his hard-edged ex-lover Hayley (Hayley Squires), is keen to have him back but he finds her new work ethically unacceptable and moves on.

BLOOD CELLS offers a strikingly naturalistic perspective of the British landscape and one that mixes various genres to create a deeply affecting and richly textured drama that is made all the more watchable by Barry Ward’s vulnerable and reflective performance as Adam. To its credit, BLOOD CELLS is the only British project ever to have been selected by the Biennale College: Cinema. Made on a shoestring budget £119,000 – and none the worse for it – and funded solely by the Biennale|Venice Film Festival. Recommended.

BLOOD CELLS IS ON GENERAL RELEASE ON 27TH JUNE AFTER A UK PREMIERE AT EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL

Set Fire To The Stars (2014)

image008Director: Andy Goddard

Writers: Andy Goddard and Celyn Jones

Cast: Elijah Wood, Celyn Jones, Shirley Henderson, Steven Mackintosh

UK​ Drama ​90mins

One of the very few non-dreadful UK productions to premiere at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, SET FIRE TO THE STARS is the debut feature of Andy Goddard, whose previous directorial work includes TV’s Torchwood, Doctor Who, The Bill and, most recently, four episodes of Downtown Abbey as well as that show’s 2012 Christmas Special. Depicting the volatile relationship between Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and the American academic-cum-literary critic John Malcolm Brinnin, the film is a conceptually intriguing work whose chief strength is Chris Seager’s evocatively crisp monochrome digital cinematography.

Dylan Thomas (Celyn Jones) arrives in New York in 1950 with reputations preceding him: not only is he a much-lauded genius of poetry, he is also a drunken liability whose unfaltering approach to life is to enjoy it—to feel it and to sense it in all its excess. Drink now, worry later: Thomas is an unthinkably quick-witted partygoer who seemingly lacks an off-switch—though he arrives from Wales burdened with barely acknowledged psychological hang-ups and in palpable retreat from marital turmoil. Consequently, there’s a flipside never too far away. If he isn’t embarrassing himself before more attentive company by slurring his way through tortured, inebriated recitals, in private moments he stews in a debilitating swamp of depression.

Thomas is in America for a tour of performances organised by John Brinnin (Elijah Wood), who accompanies the poet after assuming responsibility for him and his behaviour. As one Yale academic puts it, Thomas is a “manchild… terrorising functions with his mischief.” Forever deflecting the serious professionalism required of him, the poet sends Brinnin out one night for milkshakes, candy and a comic book; when the latter returns, Thomas has disappeared. Before long, the hotel’s kicked the pair out, and they retreat to a picturesque country home in Fairfield County, Connecticut, where Brinnin feels better equipped to distract his visiting guest into something resembling a mental focus.

Thomas’ ceaseless antics not only test the patience of the more prudish Yanks around him, but also that of the film’s viewers. The dramatic crux of SET FIRE TO THE STARS is how far the man can go without confronting his alcoholism and apparently broken marriage—the sole reminding image of which is an unopened letter from his wife. While Thomas is the subject of Goddard and co-writer Jones’ script, it is through Brinnin’s perspective that the tale is framed. An obvious admirer of Thomas—perhaps beyond intellectual curiosity—Brinning asks the poet where he gets it all from: ‘it’ being his wit, his genius, his sensitivity and so on. Thomas snaps: “Why do you have to label it?” The film does little to demystify the poet.

Brinning is an unreliable narrator, and though telling their tale from his perspective facilitates an unusual narrative vantage point, the filmmakers don’t seem to know what precisely to do with it—beyond telling a tale about a tempestuous, uneasy relationship. Tellingly, STARS is at its best when its makers are compelled to explore the class tensions an appreciably popular working-class artist such as Dylan Thomas might stir. While earlier scenes—in which our temperamental but self-deprecating adult-baby outwits and outrages intellectual bowtie-wearing types while in full-on hedonistic pursuit of adoring babes—suggest a narrative pattern that may grow irritating rather quickly, the strongest (and funniest) sequence here involves deliberate crudity at Yale itself.

Obviously nervous about performing privately in front of the university’s higher ranks, Thomas takes a painful pause and many sips of water before beginning with a winningly stirring rendition of ‘And Death Shall Have No Dominion’. After, a more unbearable discomfort takes hold of the poet, as he finds himself at a formal dinner expected to keep up and hold court with the stiflingly snobby professors. As their highbrow pettiness leaks through, the Ivy Leaguers get their comeuppance when the Swansea-born writer deliberately lowers the tone by breaking into vulgar limericks. What better way to uproot the literary elite’s unflinchingly old-world views than by the evocative opening lines, “A whore from Timbuktu / Filled her vagina with glue”? Who said revolutions can’t start over dinner? MICHAEL PATTISON

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE

Stella Cadente (2014)

Director/Writer: Lluis Miñarro

Cast: Àlex Brendemühl, Lorenzo Balducci, Barbara Lennie

Spain​ Drama/Comedy​ 110min

One of the better titles to world-premiere in-competition at Rotterdam earlier this year, STELLA CADENTE (aka FALLING STAR) was a welcome addition to the 68th Edinburgh International Film Festival, where it received its UK Premiere as part of the festival’s ‘New Perspectives’ strand.

Though ‘New Perspectives’ celebrates an international array of work from emerging directors, STELLA CADENTE’s writer-director Lluís Miñarro is no newcomer to the festival circuit. As a producer or executive producer, his CV boasts the likes of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES (2010), Lisandro Alonso’s LIVERPOOL(2008), Albert Serra’s HONOR OF THE KNIGHTS (2006) and others. His own first feature-length fiction work is a typically eccentric affair, unfolding at a stately pace and with an exquisite cinematographic flair, but all with a droll, deadpan, throwaway edge.

Suitable form, given the content. STELLA CADENTE tells the tale of Amadeo I, King of Spain between 1870 and 1873, whose unusually brief reign ended in abdication. The brevity of his rule can be accounted for by opposition to the Italian-born monarch’s foreignness, by the fact that his election coincided with the assassination of his most influential supporter, and by the in-fighting that gradually tore apart Spain’s progressive party throughout the latter half of the 19th Century. Compounding matters was the turbulent situation that greeted Amadeo shortly after taking up his position: turmoil among the democrats, conspiracies from the republicans, separatism in Cuba, assassination attempts, uprisings and strikes.

STELLA CADENTE is as timely as it is flippant. Though historical periods are seldom fully analogous, Spain once again finds itself in political and economic disorder, and Miñarro’s film had its first of two public screenings at Edinburgh just days after the ascension to the Spanish throne by Felipe Carlos, following father Juan’s recent abdication. Even at an unjustifiably lengthy 110 minutes, though, STELLA CADENTE eschews the greater intricacies of its historical backdrop. For the most part, it’s instead an unfussily light-hearted affair, featuring musical interludes, tripod-fixed longueurs, matter-of-fact homoerotic desire and the incongruous minutiae of a rococo social class that doesn’t know what to do with itself.

Surprisingly, Miñarro extends empathy and even sympathy to his king. Played by Àlex Brendemühl—blessed with the most amazing peepers in Spanish show business—Amadeo here isn’t as dim-witted as historical legend has had us believe. Advised not to leave his own palace lest he meets the same fate as Maximilian of Mexico, Amadeo seems fully aware that the governmental structure in his “folkloric country” denies justice and freedom. Though hewants to govern Spain, he spends the entire film in listless retreat from all-consuming boredom. In truth, Maximilian I, the Emperor of Mexico, had in 1867 been executed after being betrayed by those closest to him. Of Spain, Amadeo remarks, “This country is full of absurd conspiracies.”

It’s also visually sumptuous. As Amadeo’s wife, Queen María Victoria (Barbara Lennie), remarks, “You know what I love about Spain? It looks like a canvas.” Fittingly, Miñarro’s cinematographer Jimmy Gimferrer shoots in digital chiaroscuro that retains its absorbing clarity and seductive colour throughout. It’s painterly, but it’s also how a child might view things, and kid-like Amadeo, eager to serve his country but never taken seriously enough to be given the chance, doesn’t help himself whenever surrounded by advisors. In his first such meeting, he repeatedly asks if there’ll be a dance or a concert to mark his coronation. Later, his enthusiasm has dimmed: “Ambition is a trap.”

It’s not clear what Miñarro and co-scriptwriter Sergi Belbel’s intentions are here. Any serious allegory or warning cry that might pertain to contemporary Spain is offset by the unnervingly cheery tones, while brief episodes such as that in which Amadeo’s loyal servant Alfredo (Lorenzo Balducci) fucks a watermelon are outright bizarre. Still, it’s perhaps unfair to judge, given the kind of work Miñarro has been drawn to as a producer—adding to those mentioned above is fellow Catalonian Sergio Caballero, whoseFINISTERRAE (2010) is perhaps STELLA CADENTE’s most fitting comparator, as a bonkers journey through time and space. MICHAEL PATTISON

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014 | EIFF

photoThis June (18-29th), the Edinburgh International Film Festival returns for its 68th edition with a programme absolutely jam-packed with filmic goodness – even by the festival’s high standards, this year seems an exciting one. With 156 features on offer, there’s an overwhelming amount to choose from, including the UK Premieres of such much-discussed festival hits as Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, Tsai Ming-liangs’ Stray Dogs and Journey to the West, Dietrich Brüggemann’s Stations of the Cross and Fernando Eimbcke’s Club Sandwich (which we recently picked as our anticipated highlight of the East End Film Festival). Of course, Edinburgh isn’t only about new films, and this year’s retrospective strands focus on writer/director/producer John McGrath, overlooked German filmmaker Dominik Graf, and Iranian Cinema from 1962-1978 (the festival also has a special focus on new films from both Iran and Germany). With so much on offer, one wonders where to start… Here are ten things we’re particularly looking forward to:  Snowpiercer

Life May Be, Dirs. Mania Akbari, Mark Cousins – World Premiere

A collaboration between exiled Iranian filmmaker Mania Akbari and the filmmaker/critic Mark Cousins, Life May Be is a correspondence of essayistic films, touching upon themes that ‘are at the core of their personal and artistic lives’. Both filmmakers have shown an insightful honesty in their previous work, and the film-letter form (which has worked so well for the likes of José Luis Guerín and Jonas Mekas in recent years), will surely bear interesting fruit in their hands.

My Accomplice still 2 (Alex in bedroom 1)My Accomplice, Dir. Charlie Weaver Rolfe – World Premiere

A romantic comedy concerning a burgeoning relationship between a young Scottish caretaker and a German baker, Charlie Weaver Rolfe’s debut feature My Accomplice should offer some light relief to off-set some of the festival’s heavier titles. The film plays in competition for the Michael Powell Award for Best British Film which, in recent years, has cast a much-needed spotlight upon small, independent films such as this.

Something, Anything, Dir. Paul Harrill – International Premiere 

A feature-debut from a filmmaker behind a Sundance-award-winning short, Something, Anything tells of a young newlywed who abandons her domestic life to go in search of something more spiritual. If the premise invokes the story of Rossellini’s Europe ’51 (and therefore of Saint Francis), surely, 60-years on from Rossellini’s masterpiece, the time is ripe for another investigation into such themes?

The Invisible Life, Dir. Vítor Gonçalves – UK Premiere 

Gonçalves’ debut film, A Girl in Summer, was released to wide acclaim in 1986 – and now, after a 27-year hiatus, he returns with The Invisible Life. The film centres upon the melancholic memories of a middle-aged public servant. As he tries to remember the final days of his former superior, he is reminded of the woman he loved.

Letters From The SouthLetters from the South, Dirs. Royston Tan, Midi Z, Sun Koh, Tsai Ming-liang, Tan Chui Mui, Aditya Assarat – UK Premiere

A portmanteau film by an impressive roster of directors, Letters from the South examines the Chinese diaspora living in other areas of Asia. If it’s true that portmanteau films are often uneven in quality, it’s also true that last year’s Centro Histórico was one of Edinburgh’s highlights, suggesting that the EIFF team have a good eye for picking omnibus films that work.

Manakamana, Dirs. Stephanie Spray, Pacho Velez – UK Premiere 

The new film from the Sensory Ethnography Lab (the people behind Sweetgrass and Leviathan), Manakamana takes its name from a legendary temple in Nepal. Confined to the cable car that transports people to and from the temple, the film offers an insight into the lives of several groups of pilgrims visiting the temple.

Sorrow and Joy still 1

Sorrow and Joy, Dir. Nils Malmros – UK Premiere

The new film from acclaimed Danish auteur Nils Malmros, Sorrow and Joy centres upon the bond between a husband and wife, and the challenges they face together after the death of their infant daughter – at the hands of the wife. The films is said to be Malmros’ most personal feature film to date.

Truths Beyond Truth: Three Masterpieces, Dirs. Forugh Farrokhzad, Kamran Shirdel, Amir Naderi – Retrospective Screening 

As mentioned, Edinburgh isn’t only about new films, and this collection of three short films from the Interrupted Revolution: Iranian Cinema, 1962 to 1978 strand promises to be quite a treat. The programme features the sole directorial offering from famed poet Forugh Farrokhzad, an ironic examination into notions of documentary veracity by Kamran Shirdel, and a wordless tale from Iran New Wave leading light, Amir Naderi.

Black Box Live, Dirs. Sally Golding, Michaela Grill, Karl Lemieux, Phillip Jeck, Guillaume Caillleau, Jan Slak – Live Event Screening 

After its successful debut last year, Black Box Live returns to offer another evening of expanded film performance from some of the biggest names in the live audio-visual scene, promising to be a ‘veritable treat for the senses’. As the festival’s experimental strand, Black Box continues to offer some of the most challenging – and the most rewarding – films on display in Edinburgh.

EIFF in Conversation: Wang Bing – In Person Event 

To coincide with their screening of leading Chinese documentarian Wang Bing’s new film, ‘Til Madness Do Us Part, Edinburgh will be welcoming Bing to the stage to talk about his work, and discuss wider questions of documentary practice.

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL RUNS FROM 18-29 JUNE 2014

 

The Servant (1963)

Dir: Joseph Losey | Wri: Harold Pinter |

Britain can thank its immigrants for the renaissance it had in filmmaking in the Sixties and Joseph Losey is a fine example taking refuge in England in 1951 at the onset of MacCarthyism, realising that his career was over, to all intents and purposes, in the States.

The Servant is a classic film and groundbreaking for  several reasons. Losey brought with him a completely different approach, doing away the rather staid practices over here and bringing something new and fresh to the table. He is also responsible for discovering both Edward and James Fox.

With music by John Dankworth and his cinematographer of choice Douglas Slocombe, Losey got hold of Robin Maugham’s novel, which Pinter had previously made into a play, and then adapted further into a screenplay. They almost came to blows over the finished script, but Losey persisted and it proved time well-spent; The Servant is a remarkable film.

Good timing too for Dirk Bogarde, who had long since tired of stock ‘leading man’ roles and wanted something a bit more interesting and dirtier to get his teeth into. Great turns also by a host of household names, Sarah Miles, Patrick Magee, Wendy Craig, Annie Firbank and even Pinter himself.

The Servant centres on an aristocrat (Fox) not long back in the country, who has bought a London townpad and feels the need for a manservant; an already outdated notion in the early Sixties. The film opens with potential, Bogarde, approaching the house for his interview. What follows is a brilliant concoction of Pinter’s dialogue, Losey’s direction and two very handsome actors at the top of their game.

Exploring myriad themes of the day: the class divide; the bankruptcy of the aristocracy; the moral bankruptcy of the working classes; the sexual revolution; homosexuality and a general shaking off of the value system of the day, principally, this is a film about power. Heady stuff, the impact of which cannot be underestimated, in terms of both content and style, on work to come thereafter.

Losey is quoted thus: ‘Films can illustrate our existence…they can distress, disturb and provoke people into thinking about themselves and certain problems. But not give the answers’. It’s a complex piece with many characters, none of whom escape untarnished and is all the better for it. Gone are the stock stereotypes of yore, where it was easy to know who the baddie was, or who to ridicule.

A sharp black and white blade of a film with plenty to say and no little style in the doing. Andrew Tomlinson

UK PREMIERE of the 4k restoration EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL | 19th August 2021 | COLLECTOR’S EDITION BLURAY, DVD, DIGITAL from 20th August 

Copyright © 2022 Filmuforia